A man accused of organizing anti-lockdown protests in Australia was sentenced to eight months in prison this week for violating Sydney’s COVID rules as the Land Down Under struggles to contain recent outbreaks of the Delta Variant.
“Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders,” reports The Guardian.
“Khallouf appeared in Hornsby local court on Friday, charged with breaches of public health orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend,” adds the British outlet. “He pleaded guilty to four counts of not complying with a direction relating to Covid-19, encouraging the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in a police investigation.”
Similar measures are underway in other parts of Australia.
“To anybody planning to breach public health orders and attend an illegal mass gathering this weekend, our message is clear: Don’t do it,” said an official from New South Wales (NSW).
“We are not opposed to free speech. We are absolutely opposed to a protest that potentially jeopardizes the freedom of the vast majority of the community that continue to do the right thing,” added a member of the New South Wales Police Force. “We are absolutely opposed to a protest that allows people to gather and in doing so has the potential to risk the health and safety of the majority of the community.”
The Police Department issued a formal statement on the upcoming protests:
Senior police have issued a strong warning to anyone planning to attend an unauthorised protest planned for this weekend that they will face the full force of the law.
Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon, Metropolitan Field Operations, was joined by Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott today (Wednesday 18 August 2021), to put would-be protesters on notice.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, said the activities of a few could have long-lasting and detrimental impacts to all Sydneysiders.
“The overwhelming majority of people in NSW are doing their bit to turn the COVID case numbers in the right direction and this proposed protest would undermine all that work,” Mr Elliott said.
“We’re temporarily living with restrictions that we all want to see lifted, but the mass gathering of a group of idiots could mean that day moves further into the future.
“I have complete confidence in the work police are doing within Operation Stay at Home and the operational plans for the weekend should reassure the wider community that officers are at the ready to take swift action against anyone not complying with the public health orders,” he said.
As the NSW Police Force continues to monitor online and other commentary in relation to protest activity this weekend, preparations are well underway for a highly visible and mobile police operation to disrupt activities and prevent mass gatherings anywhere in the state.
Read the full statement here.