Cops’ dilemma in dealing with bridge protesters
Police would not be able to exercise COVID-19 social distancing if they had to physically remove sit-down protesters on Brisbane's Story Bridge, a judge has said.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has asked for court orders to prevent a planned refugee rights sit-in protest on Saturday, not only on the Story Bridge, but also in Main St, Kangaroo Point.
Justice Peter Applegarth ordered last weekend that a sit-in of thousands of people on Brisbane's Story Bridge, in support of refugees detained in a Main St motel, be prevented.
Justice Jean Dalton today said the planned sit-in involved civil disobedience, requiring police to manhandle protesters if they refused move-on directions.
She said it would not just be people walking along in a protest march, and it was different to a lot of people attending a football game.
Counsel for the Attorney-General, Gim Del Villar, said today a sit-down protest on the bridge and in Main St would cause considerable disruption and pose a risk to community safety.
He told Brisbane Supreme Court ambulances and emergency services used the bridge.
The planned protest also involved a breach of the public's right to travel across the bridge, Mr Del Villar said.
He said the protesters seemed to want to breach the law deliberately.
Mr Del Villar told Justice Dalton it was believed Brisbane city councillor Jonathan Sri was an organiser of the protest.
He said Cr Sri had said he would not be a main organiser, but intended to join the march and show his support.
Cr Sri has sent emails to the Supreme Court denying he was an organiser of last Saturday's or this Saturday's planned Story Bridge protests.
"In my submission he is an organiser," Mr Del Villar said.
He said Cr Sri attended a meeting with police, as a representative of the protesters, along with Jarrah Kershaw and Laura Harland, on Tuesday.
He said they were the ones who determined whether the protest would go ahead.
"One can infer Cr Sri does have some influence about whether the protest goes ahead," Mr Del Villar said.
All three were named as respondents to the Attorney-General's injunction application, aimed at preventing the civil disobedience sit-ins.
Greg Barns SC, counsel for Mr Kershaw and Mr Harland, said they were not organisers.
While they had said they would abide by any court orders, they could not speak for others, he said.
Justice Dalton said the pair had not filed affidavits to support the claim that they were not organisers.
Mr Del Villar said he also wanted Dane De Leon, a spokesperson for Refugee Solidarity Brisbane/Meanjin, to be included as a respondent to the court injunction.
He referred to a Facebook feed of Ms de Leon advising people about the protest.
Ms de Leon was in court, along with several other protesters, including Mr Kershaw and Ms Harland.
"It is quite clear the sit down protest is intended to be disruptive," Mr Del Villar said.
Justice Dalton said protesters also intended to breach the law.
Paula Morreau, counsel for Queensland Human Rights Commission, and Mr Barns said the order sought by the Attorney-General was too broad in its unlimited time frame.
Justice Dalton adjourned the hearing until 2pm today, to allow the Attorney-General's lawyers to frame a draft order.
Originally published as Cops' dilemma in dealing with bridge protesters