NSW anti-protest laws excessive: Amnesty

·3-min read

NSW laws threatening protesters with up to two years in prison have again been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International ahead of bail hearings for two accused demonstrators.

Blockade Australia protesters arrested during a raid at a rural property northwest of Sydney in June have faced excessive conditions according to the human rights group.

"Two people standing up courageously for their right to protest, their right to stand up against oppression and fight for what they think is right ... have been sitting in solitary confinement in jail for now more than three weeks," Amnesty International Australia campaigns director Tim O'Connor said.

Timothy Neville and Maxim O'Donnell Curmi, both 27, were among seven arrested by NSW Police at the Colo property, where police allege protesters were planning a week of unauthorised and disruptive protests.

NSW Police claimed officers were intimidated and feared for their lives.

Blockade Australia said that claim was disingenuous, saying officers came on to the property in camouflage, refused to identify themselves as police, and hit two protesters with their car.

Mr O'Connor said the Colo raid was concerning, coming after the human rights group documented NSW Police "using unnecessary force against peaceful protesters many times over the past few years".

Relatives of the accused O'Donnell Curmi told supporters on Monday the arrests showed the protests were having an impact.

"I'm so proud of Max and all of the other climate activists who are actually doing something about this climate crisis that we've definitely got," his father Tim O'Donnell said.

He said the government was being influenced by fossil fuel industry lobbyists to target climate activists.

"We are annoying them so let's just keep on annoying them as much as we can," Mr O'Donnell said.

Protesters became the target of new laws in April following a number of protests that blocked ports and roads.

Under the laws, protesters can face up to two years prison and a fine of up to $22,000 for demonstrations that disrupt major facilities, including roads, ports, railways, manufacturing or energy facilities, among others.

The laws passed parliament the same week they were introduced, with the support of the Labor Opposition.

The Greens remain opposed to the laws and want them repealed.

Upper house Greens MP Sue Higginson told AAP on Monday the government had taken an unsophisticated, intolerant approach to the protests that will not play out well beyond the short term.

The laws are dangerous and unnecessary, and could pose an issue for the government and opposition ahead of the March election.

"They are walking a very thin, serious line ... the people of NSW don't want to see such harsh, draconian, intolerant responses," she said.

Protest remains an important part of democracy, even when it's inconvenient, and the broad reach of the laws pose a bigger threat than the activists the government intended to target, she said.

"There's only so far you can go with a police state before the impacts start having significant unintended consequences," Ms Higginson told AAP.

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