Supporters of a free Palestine, including children and elderly people, blockaded the Port Botany Harbour on November 21, where a ZIM ship was docked.
After several hours, the police decided to violently break up the peaceful blockade which was organised by Trade Unionists for Palestine.
ZIM ships transport weapons to Israel, including white phosphorus, that are being used in the genocide in Gaza.
NSW Police broke the blockade up and arrested more than 20 people: they used horses to force people off the road. Protesters were not allowed to march on the road and were forced onto a path.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL), Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Democracy Network said on November 22 that they are concerned about the heavy-handedness of the police.
The CCL said police issued “move on” orders and then arrested protestors sitting on the ground. Legal observers did not witness any reason being given for the orders. CCL said such orders can only be validly given to a demonstration when there is a serious risk to the safety of any person, or persons are obstructing traffic.
CCL said they had reports of three police pinning a protestor on the ground and several protestors being apprehended with a wrist hold.
At least seven people have been charged with disrupting a major facility, under s214A of the Crimes Act. This offence, part of the Coalition-led and Labor supported anti-protest laws, could mean that protesters face two years in jail and pay a $22,000 fine.
Several individuals have been given harsh bail conditions, including that they “undertake to not participate in an unlawful protest”.
The blockade of ZIM shipping is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and is being organised at ports around the world.
Lydia Shelly, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the right to protest “needs to be protected, even if protests are considered disruptive, controversial or inconvenient”.