'We are well prepared': NSW police minister's warning to protesters

Police and those rallying for Aboriginal rights and police accountability are set to clash outside Sydney Town Hall after a court declined to authorise the rally late Friday night.

The Stop All Black Deaths in Custody rally is expected to have thousands of people gather at 3pm on Saturday but the state’s Police Minister David Elliott said authorities will have a large presence at the demonstration and issued a strong warning to protesters this morning.

“The NSW police force will have appropriate numbers in the Sydney metropolitan area today to ensure that anybody that wants to ignore The Supreme Court ruling is reminded that it will be an illegal gathering and that they are not allowed to be on the street as part of that process,” Mr Elliott said.

“Without wanting to disclose police operational procedures, we are well prepared.”

Protesters marching during a Black Lives Matter protest, following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Sydney on June 2. Source: AAP

“Nobody wants to see freedom of speech exercise more than me and I think that while the cause being advocated is more than honourable, I think the protest will put lives in danger," Mr Elliot told reporters Saturday.

A Facebook page for the event, which was officially organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association and other groups until it was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, has seen 12,000 people click ‘attend’ and a further 18,000 people say they are ‘interested’ in turning up.

Police initiated the court action on Friday afternoon to stop the protest, but it became apparent during the four-hour Supreme Court hearing that the rally had never been deemed an authorised public assembly.

Justice Desmond Fagan then refused to approve it, citing the current coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.

NSW Minister for Police David Elliot has been disparaging of those wanting to protest. Source: AAP

Organisers now say their involvement has ceased but urged anyone still wishing to attend "as an individual" to obey social distancing and wear face masks to ensure safety.

Many protesters have publicly pledged to attend regardless, with the rally's original organisers also promising to hand out face masks and hand sanitiser nearby "unrelated to any gathering".

Being an unauthorised public assembly, police will be able to fine or arrest them for blocking roads or public transport services and for breaching COVID-19 public health orders.

Mr Elliott would not comment when asked if police were prepared to arrest more than 5,000 people if necessary.

Greens MP David Shoebridge announced Saturday morning that an urgent last minute appeal had been lodged in the NSW Court of Appeal to authorise the rally.

“The organisers have received strong advice from lawyers across the legal community that the decision has significant flaws that amount to jurisdictional error,” the MP tweeted.

Leetona Dungay, whose son David died in Long Bay jail in 2015 after shouting "I can't breathe" while being restrained, said she'd march regardless of court approval.

"I'm marching for my son and nothing is stopping me," she said before the court's decision on Friday.

"If we don't march tomorrow that means they'll keep killing people."

with AAP

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