Protest rights in the Covid-19 pandemic
Last Saturday, thousands people gathered in Sydney to hold anti-lockdown protest. Hundreds of fines have been issued and dozens charged.
Do people have protest rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Peaceful protest is protected under international human rights law. Regarding protest rights in the pandemic context, COVID-19 does pose a serious threat to public health. However, democracy doesn't stop in a pandemic. The most important thing is protests should be held with compliance with the public health guidelines.
For example, in Commissioner of Police v Gray, the Supreme Court granted permission to the organizers of a Black Lives Matter protest in Newcastle in July 2020. Justice Adamson went on to hold that, 'given the protest was to take place at a time when many other activities which involve the gathering of people have been allowed, and the first protest was conducted in a peaceful manner with respect paid to social distancing, to deprive such groups of the opportunity to demonstrate in an authorised public assembly would inevitably lead to resentment and alienation if the public risk concerns did not warrant it.'
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