The right to protest is under attack in NSW. Now is our chance to have our say and ensure that our fundamental right to protest is protected.

Protests have always been central in achieving social and political change in NSW, leading to some of the most important advances in human rights.

In 1965 Charlie Perkins led university students through regional NSW on the Freedom Ride, drawing international attention to systemic racism against Aboriginal people. The courage of the 78ers in Sydney’s first Mardi Gras sparked a major advance in Australia’s LGBTQIA+ rights movement that benefits the queer community to this day. These are testaments to this state’s long proud history of using the power of protest to achieve significant change.

However, in April 2022 the NSW government passed new anti-protest laws, threatening fines of $22,000 and up to 2 years in prison for taking part in peaceful protest. This legislation was rushed through parliament in just 30 hours with no community consultation.

Governments have a duty to respect, facilitate and protect the right to protest. Instead, these laws have restricted this fundamental right and had a chilling effect on democracy and our ability to achieve social change.

This legislation has bolstered police power in ways that we have never seen in this state, incentivising police to intimidate and expand surveillance and control on protesters. These laws are disproportionate and violate international human rights law, in particular the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They threaten everyone, from school students marching for climate justice to anti-war protesters. Hundreds of arrests have been made under these laws, including children.

Police violence and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters has escalated, especially targeting First Nations people and individuals on temporary visas.

Now, two years since their introduction, these laws are up for review. For the first time the NSW community has the chance to speak up. It is crucial that we use this opportunity to show that the right to protest matters to us. We have until Saturday 1 June to have our say.

All people should be able to take part in peaceful protests and make their voices heard safely and without repercussions. People shouldn’t face huge fines, and even prison sentences, just for standing up for what’s right. Protest is a human right. It must be protected, not attacked.

Write a submission to the NSW government and urge them to protect the right to protest and scrap these draconian laws.