Mayor overturns council policy on protests

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Over the weekend, NSW Premier Chris Minns told the media that protests in the heart of Sydney over the war in the Middle East were costing taxpayers quite a lot of money.

In contrast, here in Campbelltown, Mayor George Greiss has discovered that anyone organising a protest locally would have to pay a fee for the use of a public place.

He did not waste any time doing something about it.

Mayor Greiss had council policy changed to ensure lawful protests in the Campbelltown local government could be held without the organisers having to pay for whatever public space they used.

At last week’s council meeting Mayor Greiss tabled an urgent mayoral minute which outlined what the current policy was in regard to protests in Campbelltown, and what he was proposing to do about it.

“It has come to my attention that under our current fees and charges there is no provision to allow people to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and association without having to pay for the use of public space,’’ he said.

“I believe that this is an oversight on our behalf as it is a common practice within other councils to enable such activities and I also believe that should be the case in Campbelltown.

“We must uphold our obligation to enable people to exercise their right to peaceful assembly without undue restriction.

“As such, with the support of this chamber, I have asked the general manager to immediately treat all requests for gathering and assembly in this regard, to not be treated as an event rather as a protest, separate to our standard fees and charges,’’ Mayor Greiss said.

He moved a motion that read: That council amend the fees and charges to note a protest is not an event and should not incur event fees and charges.

Councillors supported the motion when it was put to the vote.

But Mayor Greiss revealed he had gone further on the matter.

“I have also asked the general manager to introduce a policy to enable people of all races, creed or ideology to exercise their right to protest under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights without cost,’’ he said in the mayoral minute.

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