Authorities are using “bullshit” claims about activists in attempts to stop public protests in Queensland, the state’s lone Greens MP told a civil liberties rally in Brisbane on Wednesday morning.
The protest march – about the right to protest – was held during morning peak-hour despite attempts by the LNP-led Brisbane City Council to deny the demonstration a permit, claiming it would cause traffic delays and “serious public disorder”.
The group of about 150 people was on the roadway for about 15 minutes and traffic was flowing though the city soon afterwards. In its earlier attempts to stop the rally, the council had told the Brisbane magistrates court that commuter traffic impacts could last for more than two hours.
The rally was organised largely in opposition to new laws, proposed by the Queensland Labor government, to ban “locking” devices used by climate activists and give police more power to search suspected protesters.
Guardian Australia reported last week that claims used by the government to justify the new laws – that activists were using “booby traps” and intended to harm emergency services workers – were not supported by evidence and strongly disputed by protest groups.
The state Greens MP Michael Berkman said those claims, made in parliament by the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, were “bullshit”.
“Frankly, I think it’s disgusting that the premier and the lord mayor are using this language of ‘extremists’ and describing peaceful protests as ‘dangerous’,” Berkman said.
The Greens councillor Jonathan Sri, who organised the protest, represented himself in court on Tuesday after the council attempted to deny authorisation.
“I think the suggestion that the government should decide when people protest and what they should get to protest about is utterly ridiculous,” he said. “It needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
The Queensland Civil Liberties Council welcomed the court’s decision to allow the protest to go ahead.
“The intervention by the council before the court was a political stunt by the new mayor of which [former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen] would have been proud,” the QCLC president, Michael Cope, said.
“It is clear that there is a right to peaceful protest in this state. Sometimes, when rights are exercised in a democracy, other people are inconvenienced. That is the price that we pay for having a democracy.”
The lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, speaking on ABC radio before the protest began, repeated earlier comments that people participating in these actions were “extremists”.
“This is designed to cause chaos and it’s happening again and again,” he said. “Even the CMFEU takes a more reasonable approach.”
Berkman pointed to his mother, at the front of the crowd, who joined the protest on her way to bible study.
“If you look at the group that is gathered here, it is a group of respectable and respectful people, concerned about a government cracking down on our right to protest,” he said.