The NSW Police Minister has labelled anyone who attends a protest during the coronavirus pandemic as “certifiably insane”.
Hundreds of people marched through Sydney’s city on Tuesday night, calling for better treatment of Indigenous Australians as protests continue across the US over the death of George Floyd.
Police Minister David Elliott said officers would be out in force at another protest planned in Sydney this weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr Elliott criticised the march, calling it “not my sort of cause”, but he told Macquarie Radio it was out of his control.
“Anybody who goes to a mass gathering during a pandemic is certifiably insane, they are nuts,” he said.
“I have literally been up half the night talking to senior police, taking legal advice, but as the Premier said yesterday there are things in our society that are just virtually impossible to stop and the right for political freedom is one of them,” Mr Elliott said on Friday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said despite concerns the demonstrations risked coronavirus transmission, the freedom to protest would always be protected.
Mr Elliott said if the protest had been banned, organisers would have likely gone to the Supreme Court.
“It is highly likely the Supreme Court would have given them their permission to assemble,” he told 2GB.
The state opposition has also criticised the government for allowing large protests to go ahead.
Labor spokeswoman Lynda Voltz said the public health orders in place should prohibit organised gatherings.
“The messaging here is the problem,” she said.
“Police are now going to be policing a large demonstration, well what happens in venues, pubs, hotels, restaurants, when the numbers exceed 50?
“What’s happening at funerals, what’s happening at weddings?”