Rally calls for SA anti-protest laws to be repealed

May 17, 2024
Protesting for the right to protest on May 16. Photo: Paul Petit

About 300 people rallied outside Parliament House on May 16 to demand the Labor government repeal the controversial anti-protest law changes, on the first anniversary of their introduction.

The rally was organised by a coalition of groups including Amnesty International, Australian Democracy Network, The Wilderness Society, Human Rights Law Centre, Students for Palestine Adelaide and Extinction Rebellion South Australia.

The anti-protest law was passed in just 20 minutes and without consultation.

The draconian changes to the Summary Offences Act raised the maximum penalty for obstructing a public place from $750 to $50,000 or 3 months’ imprisonment.

The amendments were implemented in response to protest actions by Extinction Rebellion, campaigning for real action on climate change.

The failure of Labor governments to take serious action on climate and to continue their support for the fossil fuel industry shows that the laws are designed to combat criticism of their failures.

“Protest is vital to democracy and, in the midst of a climate emergency, it is more important than ever: we need disruption to end the destruction,” said Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Gemma Weedall.

The action launched a campaign to review and repeal the anti-protest laws which, the organisers say, are having a negative impact on peaceful protest.

“The community deserves laws that come from deliberation and consultation, not policy on-the-run. We’re calling on the SA Parliament to go back to the drawing board and reconsider these undemocratic laws,” Weedall said.

The rally was MCed by Anne Slynn from Extinction Rebellion and was addressed by Greens MLC Rob Simms, who said he had introduced a private member’s bill to overturn the bill.

Brett Larkin, SA Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, noted that the laws were the worst in the country, even worse than NSW’s draconian laws.

Christy Cain, National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union spoke strongly against the laws. He also affirmed the union’s support for the Palestinian people.

Jodie Sard, Amnesty International Australia and Adelaide for Assange, spoke about governments’ efforts to shut down whistle blowers.

Tom Gilchrist from Students for Palestine Adelaide said universities were trying to shut down the student encampments supporting the Palestinian people, both here and across the globe.

Kyle Opie from Extinction Rebellion South Australia said people would not stop protesting despite the repressive laws. He emphasised the increasingly serious global climate crisis.

Sarah Walker from the SA Anti-Poverty Network also spoke.

Protestors marched down King William Street and through Rundle Mall before stopping for a 5-minute sit-down on the road at the intersection of Rundle and Pulteney Streets. A few people continued to sit down, despite the majority having left.

Opposition to the anti-protest laws is widespread. For example, on May 14, Peter Duncan, who introduced ground-breaking laws as SA Attorney General in Don Dustan’s Labor government in the 1970s, including legalising homosexual relationships (the first in Australia) and criminalising rape in marriage, was launching his autobiography.

Duncan, who was interviewed by former SA Premier Lynn Arnold, said while he didn’t want to comment on current Labor governments, he did say he opposed the anti-protest laws.

His comments were applauded, although probably not by the current Attorney General, Kyam Maher, who was in the audience at the time.

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