By Andy Young
Anti-lockout pressure group Keep Sydney Open’s plans to run a rally in Kings Cross on Saturday night were crushed by the Supreme Court on Friday.
NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, headed to the Supreme Court to stop the planned night rally, arguing that a crowd of 7000 people would be too dangerous in the Kings Cross area on a Saturday night. In putting the case forward Scipione said that he “would, or might well, support a public protest in an open area during daylight hours” but added he had concerns regarding public safety and crowd management given that the event was to be held "at night and in a confined, semi-residential area".
The Supreme Court also noted: “The proposed event involves large logistical questions about crowd management that bear upon the safety of participants, and the general community in the vicinity of the venue. The defendants have endeavoured to cater for the orderly conduct of the event (for example) by arranging for volunteer marshals to assist in crowd control, and for St John Ambulance officers to be available to render medical assistance, if required. They have not, however, made comprehensive arrangements (for example) for the control of traffic and pedestrians – they rely upon the police for that – and they do not presently have insurance cover in the event of misadventure.”
In making his ruling the Hon. Justice Geoff Lindsay said: “In my assessment, the proposed event is not one appropriate to extend to participants in it the protection afforded by section 24 of the Summary Offences Act by dismissal of the Commissioner’s summons. The logistical problems of the event are too large, and too unknown, to deny to police officers powers that might reasonably be required, in the interests of all concerned, to be exercised in management of the large number of people expected to participate, even assuming (as one hopes, and the defendants expect) that all participants will be well behaved, sober and conscious of the rights of others.”
As a result of this assessment, the court ruled that the proposed march be prohibited.
Keep Sydney Open were obviously disappointed with the ruling, saying afterwards: “Prior to the lockouts, Kings Cross received 27,000 visitors per night. Keep Sydney Open maintains that the police's argument could be applied to any protest or public assembly, and they could shut down any major political rally by arguing the size would create risks.
“It is the job of police to work with organisers to mitigate those risks, but the right to assembly and political free speech must come first. We oppose risk management becoming a cause to prohibit political assembly. When red tape gets this powerful, it should be a worry for everyone in our state.
“We don’t want to be responsible for putting our supporters into a situation where they would likely face arrest. We also didn’t want to tarnish the reputation our movement has built, with all of your support.”
The group added: “This state has told responsible adults when we can and can't have fun, now it's telling us when we can and can't politically express ourselves.
“There's a new premier on the way and our cause is as vital as ever, we hope you will join us in the coming weeks: we've got a strong message to send.”
In response to this rally being cancelled, Keep Sydney Open announced that it now plans to go ahead with its third march on Saturday 18 February.