Police shut down Wollongong protest due to COVID-19 related health risks.

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A second Black Lives Matter rally in Wollongong was carefully dispersed by police after just thirty minutes of its commencement. The police began ordering people to leave the grounds of McCabe Park soon after 1:30pm despite the organisers plans to run the event for a further 90 minutes.

At least fifty police arrived on sight before the protest started and monitored the event from the outskirts of McCabe Park. Most attendees, including protestor John*, did not seem swayed by the extensive number of police surrounding the event and were determined to take a stand.

“I wasn’t surprised to see so many police in the park…it was kind of intimidating but it didn’t stop people from coming here to protest”.

Most people who attended the event wore masks and somewhat chose to adhere to social distancing rule. Sarah*, a committed protester was particularly disappointed with the polices’s efforts to follow COVID-19 safe practices.

“I saw maybe two of the police officers wearing masks and a lot of them weren’t and they were all standing together so it seems very hypocritical”.

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The protest lasted about thirty minutes before people began to march around the block to try to avoid the police. However, they were quickly blocked off and directed back to the park where they were ordered to disperse and leave the area. Many protestors, Sarah* included left the protest frustrated rather than feeling like they made a difference.

“They are just telling us to disperse and people put so much effort into this it just proves more about what we are fighting against, that they don’t care about black lives and they don’t care about the systematic racism in our country…” she said.

“It’s disgusting to see that in Wollongong we aren’t given the right to protest, we are pushed together off the roads… it’s very menacing, especially as a young person.”

The NSW police first took the protest to the Supreme Court on Thursday due to the obvious COVID-19 health and safety concerns such a large gathering can cause. Although they gave the organisers of the event a chance to call it off, they were not swayed in their decision to keep to event running, leaving the police no other option but to apply for the rally to be prohibited. Despite police winning their bid in court, the organisers of the protest still did not budge in their decision to hold the rally. They kept followers up to date on Facebook, encouraging them to come along and informing them what to do if arrested.

NUS Against Racism

Protestors although eager to take a stand were quick to leave the event when the police began to move people out. Attendee John* was disappointed by abrupt ending but grateful that they were able to protest at all.

“The fact that people were able to protest for as long as they did is lucky, but the fight is far from over”.

Some protestors however, were angry with the actions the police took. Protestor Sarah* was outraged by the polices decision to prevent the rally and put an end to it after such a short time.

“People put so much effort into this it just proves more about what we are fighting against, that they don’t care about black lives and they don’t care about the systematic racism in our country and they’ll just continue to squash any voices out against the regime thats currently imposed.”

No further plans for a third Black Rights Matter protest in Wollongong have been initiated.

*Names were changed due to privacy reasons.


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