Last Updated on 05/03/2021 by National Justice Project
Today the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has given a green light to a Sydney LGBTQI protest against homophobic legislation on Saturday, agreeing with protest organisers that the right to protest can be balanced with public health and safety risks.
The NSW Health Minister’s exemption can be read here.
This is the first time the NSW Health Minister has granted an exemption to a protest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the Minister’s exemption, NSW Police withdrew their opposition to the Take Over Oxford Street march.
Previous cases in the NSW Supreme Court, including a National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) rally in Sydney and a #BlackLivesMatter rally in Newcastle, have also concluded that the freedoms of speech and assembly can be maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a massive win for not only the right to protest, but for the queer community to say that the fight against transphobia and homophobia cannot wait. The police will not stand in the way of our community demanding our rights this Mardi Gras.”
National Justice Project lawyer George Newhouse, who represented the protest organisers in court, has said:
“Today the NSW Health Minister has taken action to safeguard the LGBTQI community’s right to be heard. We congratulate Mr Hazzard’s commitment to balancing health and safety risks with the right to protest.”
“The National Justice Project has been central in securing COVID-safe protest rights on three occasions. We hope that this decision by the Health Minister provides a clear indication to the NSW Police that in future cases the freedoms of speech and assembly can be balanced with community health and safety.”
National Justice Project Solicitor Eric Zhang has said:
“Our clients are committed to protecting the health and safety of protesters and the community, and they have developed a COVID-safe plan that details how people will register, wear masks, sanitise, and maintain social distance during the protest.”
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