The new legislation comes on the heels of similar laws introduced without parliamentary debate at the end of March, imposing equally severe penalties for protests on all Greater Sydney bridges and tunnels.
RLC is concerned that new laws essentially make it mandatory for most large-scale protests to seek approval from NSW Police Force in order to avoid prosecution.
“This could prove especially difficult for protesters wanting to speak out about police issues such as deaths in custody or other Black Lives Matter issues,” RLC police accountability solicitor, Samantha Lee said.
In an open letter, RLC and 38 other civil society organisations sounded the alarm at the broad nature of the legislation, which will impact protests including those held on major roads in the Sydney CBD, and includes behaviour such as obstructing people attempting to access or use major facilities.
“Everyone from school kids marching for climate action to anti-war protesters would run the risk of incurring these penalties when they set out on a march,” the letter states.
“Such laws are incompatible with the democratic right to protest and our fundamental civil liberties.”
In June 2022, Forty civil society organisations including RLC signed a separate joint statement coordinated by Human Rights Law Centre expressing alarm at reports of police overreach in preemptive policing of protest, following NSW police surveillance and a raid on climate activists north of Sydney.