Anti-vaccination protests expected to impact Canberra on Friday and Saturday: police | The Canberra Times


Police are warning Canberrans that anti-vaccine mandate protest activity is expected to continue over the next two days. ACT Policing said small short disruptions are occurring – often with protestors travelling in convoy from one location to the next. Disruptions to roads, paths, open spaces and public and private offices across the ACT may occur. Roads near Parliament House may be subject to traffic control measures and people are urged to obey the directions of traffic controllers. Police have gathered outside law courts in Canberra in anticipation of protest activity on Friday. Two protesters who have previously faced court are expected to appear again on Friday morning. This comes after protesters marched through the capital’s city centre on Thursday afternoon and follows news that the Exhibition Park campers will be kicked out by police next week, as the showgrounds prepare for the Canberra Show. Meanwhile, the ACT Health Minister has urged anti-vaccine protesters, who descended on Canberra from around Australia more than a week ago, to listen to science and legitimate experts. “The coronavirus is real, the public health measures that we’ve taken to respond to it are important and the vaccines are safe and effective,” Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith told ABC Canberra on Friday. She said protest was vital for Australia’s democracy, “but when it comes to getting in the face of Canberrans, hassling them, abusing people, that is not OK”. “You have a right to peaceful protest, you have a right to make your views known, particularly to politicians who are making the decisions, but going around and hassling people who work in retail they’re just doing their job … and meeting their legal obligation.” READ MORE: Organised protest activity is expected to continue on Saturday morning and is set to impact traffic along Commonwealth Avenue. ACT Policing advised motorists to avoid this area if possible as delays and road closures are expected. According to the Convoy to Canberra’s new website a “major event” is planned for Saturday. The group plans to meet at Commonwealth Park at 8am before marching to Parliament House at 9am. The website states the protesters will hold a sit-in from 11am. Parliament House is closed to the public and parliament is not sitting that day, and it is unclear whether the group will remain on the lawns. INXS founding member and drummer, turned anti-child-vaccination “activist”, Jon Farriss is scheduled to speak at the rally. On Thursday a few hundred protesters walked from Glebe Park up Bunda Street, going through city walk, past King O’Malleys and back to Glebe Park. Convoy to Canberra protesters have continued to call for more demonstrators to join them at EPIC, where they are legally camping. Events at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) including the Lifeline Book Fair and the Capital Region Farmers Markets are proceeding as planned. Visitors should consider using public transport if possible as parking is currently limited at EPIC. While ACT Policing recognises the rights of people to peacefully protest, when illegal actions take place the people responsible will be dealt with in accordance with the law. READ ALSO: Police plan to have a presence at EPIC this weekend during the bookfair. The bookfair will be fenced off from the camping ground. Masks will be required inside the venue and social-distancing measures will be in place. Despite Tuesday’s rally attracting a smaller crowd than predicted, Convoy to Canberra protesters have continued to call for more demonstrators to join them at EPIC, where they are legally camping for the time being. They are expecting the protest camp at EPIC to grow ahead of a staged demonstration at Parliament House on Saturday. The ACT government has so far allowed the campers to stay on with some paying fees and food donations being provided from sympathisers outside. With just 14 days until the Royal Canberra Show, the good will shown to the out-of-towners will soon wane. The ACT government has a contract with show organisers to allow them to set up for the February 25-27 show a week before its kickoff. That would indicate the camp grounds need to be empty by Friday, February 18. Police are on standby to assist with moving protesters on should it be required, although those involved have told The Canberra Times they are hoping it won’t come to that. READ MORE: Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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