A Sydney-based Palestinian advocacy group will not have to pay costs after the NSW Police took them to the Supreme Court to prevent them protesting outside an Israeli film festival.
The Palestine Action Group Sydney had planned a demonstration outside the opening of the Israeli Film Festival on Oxford St tonight to call for an end to Israel’s occupation in Palestine, and the current war on Gaza which has seen around 2,000 Palestinians killed, three-quarters of them civilians.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the NSW Police who took the group’s Damian Ridgwell to court under the Summary Offences Act, in a bid to stop the rally.
The NSW Police claimed that the rally would disrupt traffic in peak hour. According to Mr Ridgwell, the police also cited concerns that protestors would damage property and cause disruption.
Today, the group was back in court after NSW Police demanded the group cover the government’s legal costs.
This morning, the Supreme Court ruled the group did not have to pay costs, which Mr Ridgwell estimates could have amounted to up to $3,000, a huge strain on the small advocacy group.
Despite the costs victory, it raises questions about the NSW police's use of court action to prevent peaceful and democratic protest.
“It was pretty outrageous of the police to try and make the organisers of the protest cover court costs after first banning our right to protest,” Mr Ridgewell told New Matilda.
“The NSW Police tried to argue we’d been unreasonable in forcing them to court to shift the rally.
“We have organised many demonstrations before that have all been in collaboration with police, but this time we didn’t collaborate, and they argued this meant we should cover the costs.
“Once again the police are just trying to be punitive. They know we don’t have these types of resources. They are just trying to establish a precedent to intimidate people from defending the right to stand up to a challenge in court.
“If people with limited resources know a court case isn’t going to go their way, very few people would fight it.
“The police have deep pockets, but most campaign organisations don’t. They run on the smell of an oily rag. Every time the police disagrees with a particular route of protest, or location, there is a cost-risk of thousands of dollars just to defend the basic democratic right to protest and assemble.”
Mr Ridgwell told New Matilda the group would still be protesting the Israeli Film Festival tonight from Taylor Square, but said it will be mindful of the court’s decision.
The festival is organised by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE), and the chair Albert Dadon is a prominent supporter of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Film Festival was established as a joint venture between Australian and Israeli foreign ministries.
“It is a government-to-government organisation,” Mr Ridgwell says.
“It’s an attempt to whitewash Israel’s history of genocide and dispossession by presenting a liberal democratic veneer of a very racist, apartheid state.”
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