Sydney

Sydney Anti-Lockdown Protest Organiser Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison

One of the organisers of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Sydney has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison for helping to plan an “unauthorised” demonstration and for breaking other lockdown-related rules. He will serve a minimum of three months in prison. The Guardian has the story.

Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders.

Khallouf appeared in Hornsby local court on Friday, charged with breaches of public health orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of not complying with a direction relating to Covid, encouraging the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in a police investigation.

New South Wales police said in a statement on Friday afternoon that he was sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with a non-parole period of three months.

Khallouf is the founder of Australians vs The Agenda, one of the larger anti-lockdown groups with more than 12,000 followers on Telegram. Originally from Victoria, last year he was charged with incitement for allegedly helping to organise a protest in Melbourne.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Damien Cave writes in the New York Times on Australia’s reliance on quarantine infrastructure as a long-term answer to Covid.

The problem… is that even humane quarantine amounts to a forced retreat. The decisions made by governments about who poses a risk are rarely politics-free, and frequently go beyond medicine to fears shaped by emotions and biases.

Also worth reading in full.

Thousands March Against Lockdown in Major Australian Cities

Anti-lockdown protests across the world seem to be occurring both more regularly and on larger scales. Most recently, thousands have marched in major Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, against restrictive measures, with more than half of Australians currently under lockdown.

After the protests had ended, the New South Wales Police Minister, David Elliott, issued a stern warning to all who marched – not just the few who turned violent. He announced the formation of “Strike Force Seasoned, which will see 22 detectives work from now until whenever it concludes identifying as many people as possible who attended today’s incident and have them charged”. He went on:

I’m hoping that we issue 3,500 infringement notices, I’m hoping that we have people before the court, and I really hope that we can get some charges and convictions out of today’s work by the New South Wales Police. It’s essential for people to get the message. And to those that are calling for it to occur again next week, look out because these 400 officers will turn to 4,000 if needs be.

The Guardian has more.

Thousands of angry, unmasked people marched through the Sydney central business district on Saturday afternoon demanding an end to the city’s lockdown, which is entering its fifth week.

[David] Elliott said 57 people were arrested and several police officers had been assaulted.

“If we don’t see a [Covid] spike in the areas these protesters came from in the next week I’ll be very, very surprised,” Elliott said.

“It was just a whole lot of halfwits.”

Demonstrators broke through barriers in the Sydney CBD and threw plastic bottles at police.

Similar scenes unfolded in Melbourne and Adelaide, which are both in lockdown, and Brisbane, which is not.

As demonstrators were gathering in Sydney, the New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, revealed a record number of new coronavirus cases had been detected – 163 in the previous 24 hours – and pleaded with people to stay at home. …

Hazzard condemned the planned protests as “really silly” on Saturday morning.

“We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest… but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.” …

In Melbourne, thousands of protesters turned out in the central business district chanting “freedom”. …

Protesters held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total Government control of the people.”

The protest was brought to a violent end by police. An AAP photographer wearing visible press accreditation was pepper sprayed as police cleared the rally, as were other photographers.

The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, had labelled the idea of protesting against the lockdown as “ridiculous”.

“Protest against this virus by staying at home, following the rules and getting out of lockdown,” he said. …

A car rally is also planned for locked-down Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.

Worth reading in full.

Sydney Extends Lockdown Due to Fears Over Delta Covid Variant

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, will remain locked down until at least mid-July, with restrictions having been extended by a week due to fears over the Indian Delta Covid variant. Empty Sydney beaches suggest that locals broadly support the extension of lockdown measures. One city resident told BBC News: “We have to knock [Covid] on the head so you have to go along with [lockdown].” BBC News has the story.

The New South Wales Government said it had made the “difficult decision” as it battles the highly transmissible Delta strain.

A stay-at-home order was issued on June 26th.

Australia has recorded 910 deaths and fewer than 31,000 cases since the pandemic began. 

Clusters have emerged after some people who were later found to be infected left their homes for essentials.

The outbreak of around 330 cases is the worst in the city this year.

A stay-at-home order covering more than five million residents in the Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Central Coast areas was due to be lifted on Friday. It has now been extended to July 16th. Schools will also be closed next week.

The New South Wales Government said it recognised the “pain and stress” that lockdown was causing families and businesses.

Yet officials said the daily case rate – with 27 new cases recorded on Wednesday – and low levels of vaccination meant the restrictions needed to be extended.

Less than 10% of Australians are fully vaccinated. A lack of supplies, specifically of the Pfizer vaccine, means many Australians will not be able to get a jab until the final months of the year.

“What we want to do is give us our best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated,” said Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we are constantly having to move between lockdown and no lockdown.”

Worth reading in full.

Australia’s Phantom Menace

We’re reprinting a piece that appeared in the Australian recently by the Commercial Editor Steve Waterson, who has kindly given us permission. He wrote it just before a two-week lockdown in the city was announced, following the recording of 18 new positive test results. Here is an extract:

Not much has changed in the last year. Our visionary ‘leaders’ have come up with nothing new, save a revved-up vocabulary to keep us on the edge of our toilet seats: the anthropomorphised, cunning and clever virus hides and pounces when we least expect it, for it is a “beast” that, unlike any other matter in the universe, travels “at the speed of light”.

So scary is it that everyday descriptions are inadequate. Only the language of airport thrillers and Hollywood can capture the Clear and Present Danger of Jason Bourne’s Delta Variant; that’s why borders have to be “slammed shut” and the virus “hunted down”, “crushed” and “eliminated”. “Flatten the Curve”, an early instalment of the Pandemic Wars franchise, was nowhere near sexy enough.

Sadly, instead of action heroes leading us to safety (whatever that looks like), we have premiers tootling by again in their clown cars – parp, parp! – stuffed with their supporting cast of chief chuckle officers and assorted buffoons, blindly seeking a way out of the quagmire of hypocrisy and contradiction they have created.

Worth reading in full.