I’m sure by now you’ve come across sensational pictures of people picnicking in over-crowded beaches across Sydney’s eastern suburbs – and if so, you’ve probably also come across a myriad of takes around the outrage Western Sydney is feeling about these pictures.
Naturally, those of us under lockdown in Sydney’s ‘LGAs of concern’ are feeling marginalised and left out knowing we aren’t allowed the outdoor recreational freedoms that people in the Eastern suburbs and particularly Bondi are.
And that if we break public health orders, we’re more likely to face harsh consequences – as can be seen with the video from Friday evening showing 25-year-old Bilal Ladkani being handcuffed on the ground by NSW Police in Bass Hill for not wearing a mask.
People were heard crying out that he had a heart condition, before he slumped to the ground and had to be revived with a defibrillator and CPR – all while still in handcuffs.
“The footage of someone being defibrillated while being handcuffed is some of the most distressing footage I’ve ever seen,” defence lawyer Elias Tabchouri told Channel 7.
Others online, and especially in places like Twitter, have defended the freedom of Bondi beach-goers to enjoy their outdoor recreation, slamming criticisms as unnecessary.
I know everyone’s gotta get a yarn but this one is dead in the water. It’s over. There’s nothing in it. Find something else to report because goading the government into stopping people from having the outdoors because there’s an interesting drone shot of Bondi is not 👏 it. 👏
— Eliza Barr (@ElizaJBarr) September 12, 2021
Health Minister Brad Hazzard defended the crowded images on Saturday, saying “fresh air is the safest place to be”.
“I know the media will have photographs today of people out and about, they tend to do that, but generally (the beach) is a safe place to be,” he said.
“No, I am concerned about people who are not vaccinated.
“Fresh air we know is the safest place to be at the present time.”
I don’t disagree. Transmission of COVID-19 outdoors is extremely low, as NSW Health has previously reported. The question is, if that’s the case why are people in Western Sydney over-policed for taking advantage of that same idea? How come we aren’t allowed to leave our home for outdoor recreation?
If Health Hazzard believes, as he said today, that fresh air is good for people and outdoors (like Bondi Beach) is “the safest place to be” why the hell hasn’t local sport for children been restored in NSW?
Kids must be freed from home detention and isolation from their friends.
— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) September 11, 2021
Under current public health orders, people in LGAs of concern are only allowed outdoors to exercise. Outdoor recreation is not currently allowed, and there is a 9pm curfew. People who are caught sitting around outside enjoying the sunshine or chatting are moved along at risk of being fined. And of course, masks outdoors are mandatory.
Mariam, a resident of the Bayside LGA, spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV about her outrage regarding Hazzard’s response to the scenes at Bondi beach.
“My blood is boiling,” she said.
“If being outdoors is the safest place to be, then how come people in our LGAs only get to be outside for an hour?”
Even from tomorrow, when some restrictions are set to ease across Sydney, LGAs of concern will only be allowed two hours of outdoor recreational time for fully vaccinated people. So really, an absolute maximum of two hours outdoors if we aren’t actively exercising, before we must be confined inside again. Which is clearly in stark contrast to privileges in the eastern suburbs.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people in Bondi should lose their outdoor privileges. Being outside and in the sunshine is a great way to be on top of your mental health, especially when it’s low risk. But I want to see my fellow LGA of concern residents granted the same understanding and compassion.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a call for greater police presence in other suburbs, or for more policing in general – quite frankly, I think placing the responsibility of curbing a public health crisis onto a punitive force that’s known for it’s harsh and biased treatment of marginalised people is irresponsible and dangerous.
Predictable photos Bondi & Coogee beaches & Sydney “gives up” comments. Better to expend energy on things that matter: consistent outdoor recreation & exercise (unlimited) for all Sydney, scale-up rapid antigen testing, vaccination of vulnerable populations, & indoor ventilation.
— Greg Dore (@GregDore2) September 11, 2021
The point of contention here isn’t that Bondi beach-goers are doing what they are permitted to do, it’s that certain people in other LGAs must function to different, harsher rules and punishments.
There is a legitimate dehumanisation of people in Western/south-Western Sydney that’s allowed them to be treated with harsher, more punitive measures in a pandemic that’s affected everyone. And given the fact that NSW’s Deputy Premier John Barilaro actually said Western Sydney is only under a curfew because of media pressure, well — that just says it all, doesn’t it?
I’ll just add that I am not calling for more fines or for people to avoid the beach. I’m pointing out where the outrage comes from, and the disparity in privileges. These privileges obvs don’t exist in a vacuum, there are structural reasons for this shitshow.
— Mostafa Rachwani (@Rachwani91) September 12, 2021
Western/south-Western Sydney as an area is known for its high migrant population, and as someone who lives here, I can say that a lot of the local communities feel disenfranchised with the police, and victimised by the government. These feelings are further fuelled by the double standards constantly shown in this state’s COVID response.
“If Gladys Berejiklian doesn’t want to see a rise in civil disobedience, stop treating NSW citizens differently based on class and race,” Media Diversity co-founder Antoinette Lattouf tweeted.
“Maskless packed crowds at Bondi vs communities in red zone LGAs fined if they don’t wear a mask past their letterbox.”
How can we expect people in locked-down LGAs to be super vigilant, follow all the rules, and be good law-abiding citizens when there’s no effort to create trust in the law in the first place? How can we expect people not to be outraged when it feels like they are either targeted or ignored?
If it’s really low-risk, or even safest, to be outside, then when are we going to see that logic be extended to the rest of Sydney?