'SIGNIFICANT RISK': Police slam 400-strong COVID-19 protest
POLICE have made a number of arrests with five men to face Local Court after they attended a Northern Rivers COVID-19 protest on Saturday.
Tweed Byron Police District Inspector Matt Kehoe said he was very concerned his officers were assaulted by protesters at the Byron Bay Freedom Day event which saw 400 people participate.
"Thankfully none of the officers were injured," he said.
"Police were very disappointed that the protest went ahead because it was unauthorised, not supported and the behaviour of these people put the health and safety and potential economic recovery of the area at significant risk.
"We tried to reason with organisers not to have this event go ahead."
Insp Kehoe said nine people all from the Northern Rivers were arrested and five will face court on various charges including, "assaulting police, resisting arrest and hindering police in the execution of their duties."
"The other four received $1,000 PIN notices for not complying with the Health Ministers' COVID-19 directions," he said,
"The protesters wore no masks, there was no social distancing and no compliance with any of the COVID-19 restrictions."
Protesters carried a variety of signs ranging from "Scam-demic", "no new normal", "Blame Murdoch" and "Save our kids."
"Healthy lives matter" to "Freedom or fascism".
Insp Kehoe said the march which started at the Rails Park in the centre of town disrupted locals many of whom left as soon as they saw the crowd of protesters swarm down the beach.
"They caused significant disruption to pedestrians and vehicle traffic and the general wellbeing of the township," Insp Kehoe said.
"There were a people in the park and a number of people at the beachfront enjoying the day who left in fear of the large group.
"We say again these protests should not proceed in the current pandemic climate and if they do police will be there and take action."
On social media people said the amount of people protesting was "600 to 800" but police said around 400 was closer to the number of people marching.
Following the Byron Bay protests at parks on Jonsons St and Bay St:
- A 34-year-old man was charged with assault officer in execution of duty and resist officer in execution of duty. He was granted conditional bail will appear at Byron Bay Local Court on September 21.
- A 36-year-old man was charged with resist or hinder police officer in the execution of duty, wilfully obstruct officer in execution of duty and resist officer in execution of duty.
- A 21-year-old man was charged with wilfully obstruct officer in execution of duty and resist officer in execution of duty.
- A 42-year-old man was charged with resist officer in execution of duty.
They were granted conditional bail will appear at Byron Bay Local Court on September 28.