One law professor says describing protestors as “anarchists” is incorrect, and instead, the thousands-strong rallies on the weekend was a “reminder” to political leaders that they were accountable to the public, not just health officials.
On July 24, thousands of people took the streets of Sydney and Melbourne as part of the “World Wide Rally for Freedom” event, many of whom were protesting against government restrictions and lockdowns in response to COVID-19.
While previous rallies had garnered just a few hundred attendees, the weekend protest saw the numbers spike dramatically.
“Many people who are suffering under the current restrictions have been driven to protest on the streets because there are few other ways for them to be heard,” Peter Kurti, director of the Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society Program at the Centre for Independent Studies said.
“There may well have been conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers in the crowd, together with those looking for a fight. But the majority of people seem to have been protesting to highlight the enormous costs—financial, emotional, and social—imposed by the lockdown,” he told The Epoch Times.
Protesters march along Broadway and George St towards Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney on July 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
“The protest may well have been ‘unlawful’ because the public health orders restrict gatherings; but the practice of civil disobedience, long established in liberal democracies, is very different from ‘anarchy’ which rejects the very notion of social order bound by norms and laws,” he added.
“Citizens have the right to protest against laws perceived as unjust; doing so does not make them anarchists.”
Greater Sydney is undergoing a five-week lockdown due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Five million residents remain in lockdown and cannot leave their homes except for four reasons.
Last week, construction sites were shut down as well, forcing around 250,000 tradespeople to stop work, and costing the economy around $1.4 billion a week.
In response to rumours of a possible follow-up protest circulating online, New South Wales (NSW) Police Commissioner Mick Fuller was blunt: “Can I just put this warning out now to everyone? We will be heavily policing that event.”
“The community has spoken about that behaviour. The premier has spoken about that behaviour, and it won’t be tolerated again,” he told reporters.
“There are no organisers that we can take to the Supreme Court to stop the protests happening, which means they’re a bunch of anarchists,” he added.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was disgusted and heartbroken by the protestors saying they showed “utter contempt for their fellow citizens.” Victorian Premier Dan Andrews described them as “selfish.”
Kurti said these premiers assumed Australians preferred a policy of “zero transmission” and eradication of the virus, resulting in support for lockdowns.
“However, many do not share this view and are angry that livelihoods and lives have been so severely curtailed,” he said. “Defiance of political and legal authority, in the form of open protest, is a reminder that all political leaders remain accountable to the electorate—and not just at the ballot box.”
“The language used by Andrews and Berejiklian indicates they see that public health edicts must be obeyed, and to call these edicts into question, amounts to both a legal and a moral failure on the part of the protesters.”