Traffic chaos if protesters defy court order
BRISBANE could be plunged into traffic chaos on Sunday with hundreds of protesters potentially turning out for a rally despite Queensland's Chief Magistrate authorising just 40 people to attend.
The Kangaroo Point protest coincides with a 10,000 strong crowd at the nearby Gabba for an AFL match and the closing of a major bridge, which will increase traffic in the area.
Refugee Solidarity Brisbane/Meanjin last week lodged a notice with Brisbane City Council to hold its third consecutive Sunday rally for refugee rights at Kangaroo Point.
The group was seeking authorisation for 1000 people to attend Raymond Park before marching along Main St to gather outside the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel where 120 asylum seekers are detained. The event would run from 12pm to 5pm.
Queensland Police today asked Chief Magistrate Terry Gardiner to limit the protest to two groups of 20 people in streets adjacent to the hotel, but excluding Main St, from 2pm to 4pm.
Police prosecutor Snr Sgt Karen Hall said limiting groups to 20 people was a requirement of the Chief Health Officer's directions regarding COVID-19.
"There is a serious concern for public safety when it comes to the current health directives," she said.
The court heard the closure of Captain Cook Bridge for maintenance would see access to the area limited via the Clem 7 Tunnel and the Story Bridge, placing an extra 4000 vehicles an hour on Main street.
Even briefly closing Main St for protesters would "likely bring the city into gridlock" and impact access to three nearby hospitals, a police affidavit said.
Protest organiser Greg Mackenzie, who is not a lawyer, said allowing protesters on the road would allow them to spread out and do better social distancing.
"I think things will go a lot more smoothly if we allow people to march on Main St … as is their right under the Peaceful Assembly act," he told the court.
Mr Mackenzie said he was concerned that regardless of what the court ordered or what he advised demonstrators, people would still gather in the park to protest.
"I believe they will want to march … I don't know how successful I will be at getting those 40 names or limiting the crowd to 40 people," he said.
"And that would make the protest unauthorised."
Justice Gardiner said that was correct. "I hope you appreciate that and I hope the people that participate appreciate that," he said.
"And they would be prevented from peacefully assembling you honour?" Mr Mackenzie asked. "That's correct."
Justice Gardiner said the right of peaceful assembly was "fundamental" to democracy but had to be balanced with public order, safety and the rights of others.
He authorised the protest in terms proposed by police.
Outside court Mr Mackenzie said he expected more than 1000 people to attend which he believed would make it an unauthorised assembly but not a contravention of court orders.
Originally published as Traffic chaos if protesters defy court order