The Sydney ‘Stop All Black Deaths in Custody’ rally has been declared an authorised public assembly after a late decision by the Court of Appeal.
The decision came 12 minutes before the rally’s scheduled start at 3pm outside Town Hall on Saturday.
It means protesters – already gathered in many hundreds – cannot be arrested for blocking roads along the planned route from Town Hall to Belmore Park.
The appeal was heard from 2pm after organiser Raul Bassi asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision of Supreme Court Justice Desmond Fagan made on Friday night.
Justice Fagan found the document Mr Bassi filed with police last week was “entirely different” to an amended notice filed on Thursday increasing numbers from 50 to 5000.
He refused to approve the public assembly, citing the current coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the protest was not authorised.
On Friday, Justice Fagan acknowledged he was balancing the recognised right of public assembly against health risks, but ultimately said a rally of even 5,000 people was “a very undesirable idea” given the current health advice.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott warned those heading to Saturday’s protest could risk lives, and police were “well prepared”.
“Nobody wants to see freedom of speech exercised more than me, and I think that while the cause being advocated is more than honourable, I think the protest will put lives in danger,” he said on Saturday morning.
He said “police are prepared for anyone who just wants to flout the law”.
“The New South Wales police force will have appropriate numbers in the Sydney metropolitan area today to ensure that anybody that wants to ignore the Supreme Court ruling is reminded that it will be an illegal gathering and that they are not allowed to be on the street as part of that process.”
NSW coronavirus social distancing laws stipulate gatherings of more than 500 people are illegal.
Thousands of people have indicated on the event’s Facebook page that they plan to attend.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman reiterated concerns.
“I understand the grievances. I understand the passion. But I’m asking everyone to put public safety first … I’m asking everybody, please use some restraint, please use some common sense and don’t go to these mass gatherings.”
The protests follow more than a week of turmoil globally after African-American George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
In Sydney earlier this week, outrage was sparked when a police officer was caught on camera leg sweeping an Indigenous teen.
The incident is under investigation by the police Professional Standards Command.