Plan in place for Lifeline bookfair amid EPIC Canberra to Convoy protest chaos | The Canberra Times

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Authorities are not expected to move anti-vaccination and sovereign citizen protesters from EPIC this week, setting up a congested weekend with Lifeline’s annual bookfair. The situation is set to change next week, though, as the campgrounds will need to be cleared from next Friday to allow Canberra Show preparations to begin. Police will be on site from Friday, when the weekend-long bookfair begins. 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 being much smaller 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. Earlier this week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr indicated protesters would be moved on from EPIC to make way for Lifeline’s annual bookfair. “We need the facility for other events. We understand that there will be some protest activity today [Monday] and tomorrow [Tuesday]. But beyond that, I would expect those people to move on,” he told reporters on Monday. 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. Police, SES and ACT government met with organisers of the Lifeline Bookfair on Wednesday afternoon to put a plan in place for the 50th anniversary fundraiser to go ahead. With 2000 to 3000 anti-vaccination protesters coming and going from EPIC campgrounds towards the latter part of the week, traffic congestion will be the major concern for organisers and emergency services. The charity’s biggest fundraiser in two years will be held in a fenced off area away from the campers, with parking and entry to the building away from Canberra’s interstate visitors. The public has been asked to catch public transport to EPIC when possible to avoid getting caught in congestion should Convoy to Canberra attempt another disruption on the roads. Lifeline CEO Carrie Leeson said cancelling the fair wasn’t really an option for the charity, which “survives on the smell of an oily rag”. Ms Leeson said with Lifeline in Canberra receiving just $200,000 in government funding for its $4 million annual running cost, the bookfair was crucial. “We just did not have the luxury of simply canning a bookfair,” she said. “We’ve had this booking in place for two years and we’ve been rescheduling it every six months, we’ve been ready to put this event on since 2020.” Ms Leeson said the three major annual bookfairs collectively raised more than $1.5 million, compared with the $150,000 raised with mini-fairs in the past two years. “We really felt as though the Canberra community needed to see an organisation that is doing good things succeed,” she said. “Not be interrupted to the point where, once again, Canberrans lose out because of the fact that we don’t have the means in place to manage what’s happening in our city county.” “We’ve seen a lot of support from individuals and businesses that have been affected and have had to shut down because of the protests actually send their staff over to Exhibition Park to help us set up. “It’s the most incredible community that we live in and so I’m very, very pleased that we made the call to keep the event going.” READ ALSO: 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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