A staff member from The King’s School in Sydney, Australia was suspended after it was discovered that he attended anti-lockdown protests during the weekend. The school’s headmaster, Tony George, said that it was disappointing to see individuals breach public health orders since many people had been working to get out of Australia’s lockdowns.
“It has come to the attention of the school that a member of staff attended the protest rally in Sydney on Saturday 24 July … Consequently, the matter has been reported to Police by the School, and the staff member has been suspended from duties,” George said in a letter to staff.
“It is the mark of civil society that we should be able to engage in healthy debate and respect each other’s views,” the letter continued. “But this must be in a safe, lawful and respectful manner, at all times.”
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that she was “heartbroken” after seeing the protesters breaching health orders, adding that she found it “absolutely disgusting.”
Some also pointed out the possibility that the protest could turn into a “superspreader event.” However, it could take a few days for symptoms to materialize. (Related: New South Wales premier upholds construction ban as part of two-week lockdown in Greater Sydney.)
Staff member says media was creating a narrative
The staff member was said to have written on his Facebook account that the media focused its reporting on a handful of “non-representative grubs” in order to create their own narrative.
“This is me standing up for what I believe in rather than being a keyboard warrior, a pacifist, or worse, a coward in my own mind. I live with me in the mirror,” he wrote.
“I do not believe in living in fear. I do not believe the propaganda. I do not believe in unjust house arrest … I stand for all students. I stand for all those families who are stranded, isolated and suffering …. I stand for freedom. I love you,” he continued.
The post, however, has been deleted.
NSW set up police task force to identify protesters
New South Wales police set up a task force focused on identifying and fining protesters participating in Sydney rallies — the number of which are in the thousands.
This task force is combing through social media, CCTV feeds, and police cameras to help them identify participants in rallies. So far, they have received over 11,000 tip-offs from the public.
While rallies and protests fall under the freedom of speech and expression, these were deemed to have violated public health orders issued by the government.
Because of the protests, Central Sydney shut down for several hours as thousands protested the lockdowns. So far, the police were able to charge 58 individuals, with 135 more who were fined.
The Greater Sydney area underwent a five-week lockdown due to the COVID-19 delta variant update. On July 28, the lockdown was extended for another four weeks, with the government citing low vaccination rates and the spread of infections.
Because of this, the government, health officials and police have drawn a hard line against protests, with the NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller vowing to “heavily police” future events.
“We will take the ground very early,” he said. “You will be arrested and prosecuted. The community has spoken about that behavior, the Premier has spoken about that behavior, and it won’t be tolerated again.”
The commissioner also said that while there are no legal ways to prevent a second gathering, they are prepared to respond to the protests. “There are no organizers that we can take to the Supreme Court to stop the protests happening, which means they’re a bunch of anarchists,” he said.
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