New South Wales police have indicated that they are seeking “extraordinary powers” to stop and search pro-Palestinian protesters without reason and conduct mandatory identity checks on people who show up at a rally planned for this Sunday.
Organisers of the rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park have described the powers as “absolutely draconian” and a “huge violation of democracy”, stating it will be a static rally with no marching.
New South Wales Police Force Action Commissioner David Hudson said police should know by tomorrow whether there were enough grounds to authorise the powers.
“I can indicate that the powers we are considering authorising will include any person who attends Hyde Park on Sunday with the intention to assemble, and perhaps protest, will be subject to searching powers where we don’t need reasonable cause to search,” he told reporters today.
“We will also be demanding that they provide us with their identity and if they fail to do so it is an offence. These are extraordinary powers.”
Rally organisers are concerned about the request, saying that changes had been made to the organised rally to reduce the risk of harm.
“This will be a static rally, we will not march but we will be loud, we will be proud and we will show the state that we are in full support of the Palestinian people and will not bow down to their attempts to silence our movement,” Palestine Action Group Sydney said in a statement.
One rally co-organiser, Amal Naser, told The Guardian Australia the powers were an overreach.
“What we have seen in the past week in NSW is a draconian attack on our right to demonstrate in solidarity with the people of Palestine, who are currently facing a genocide in Gaza,” she said.
“There are inherent risks at any protest action, but we’re going to do everything that we can keep our community safe.”
The group also said it was considering legal action in the supreme court to stop the authorisation of powers, with the group’s legal adviser, Stephen Banks, telling The Guardian Australia that such powers were only legal if there was a “threat of large scale public disorder”.
“There is no threat of public disorder based on anything that the organisers of this event have said,” he said.
But why is there so much concern about violence? Well, religious representatives have pointed the finger at Australian political leaders, accusing them of inciting against Australian Muslim communities in response to the attacks on Israel by Hamas.
One such group, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN), accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of siding with the occupying power and showing no support for Palestinians.
“We stand by Israel and its right to protect itself,” Albanese told the ABC Radio earlier this week.
AMAN also criticised Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for fanning “the flames of prejudice”, after Dutton described the crisis as “Israel’s 9/11” and called for non-citizens who engaged in antisemitic speech at pro-Palestine protests to be deported, SBS reported.
“It devalues Palestinian lives, putting them and anyone that is associated with them in danger in Palestine and Australia,” the group wrote in a statement.
Since the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, Israel has retaliated with a full-scale attack in Gaza. Earlier today, the Israeli military told Gaza city residents to evacuate ahead of an upcoming operation, The Guardian Australia reports. The order came as the UN reported that 400,000 Palestinian have already been displaced.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Israel has said that 1300 Israelis have been killed and more than 3000 injured as of Friday morning local time. Gaza officials have said that 1500 people have been killed and more than 6600 injured.