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Right to protest can be balanced with COVID-safe practices

Amnesty International Australia today said police should work with protest organisers to balance the right to protest with COVID-safe practices.

“It’s rank hypocrisy from governments to condemn people for protesting in a COVID-safe manner, while being perfectly content with people hitting the beach, the cricket or the shopping centre in numbers,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White, said.

“The well-documented and heavy-handed tactics used by police at Black Lives Matters protests and the University of Sydney last year demonstrated that protesters are treated differently to cricket fans and shoppers when gathering in numbers.

“Police should work constructively with protesters to facilitate a COVID-safe and peaceful environment for people to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly.

“We all know that COVID-19 is still a risk in our community and we need to adhere to public health guidelines, but doing this and respecting the right to protest do not need to be mutually exclusive.”

BACKGROUND

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, states that: 

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

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