Crowds gathered outside government buildings, council chambers and police stations as 79 unauthorised anti-lockdown protests took place across NSW last week, including the Clarence Valley.
In Grafton, 50 people attended a protest outside Clarence Valley Council’s temporary headquarters in Victoria Street on August 31.
Coffs/Clarence Police District Chief Inspector Joanne Reid said nine arrests were made, 11 court attendance notices were issued, and four infringement notices were issued for Breaches of the Public Health Orders.
They were among 153 people arrested and 573 Penalty Infringement Notices issued for Breaches of the Public Health Orders throughout NSW that day.
Chief Inspector Reid said when the community works together to comply with the public health orders, they work to stop the spread of Covid-19 and get out of lockdown sooner.
“Despite the vast majority of people abiding by the rules, the small number of individuals who aren’t doing the right thing put the rest of us at risk,” she said.
“Their actions have the potential to increase the spread and extend the time these restrictions will be in place.
“It only takes one person doing the wrong thing to spread the virus to a particular town or community.
“Police will not hesitate to take action against anyone flouting the rules as was the case last week.”
A small group of protesters were also allegedly seen outside the Clarence Valley Council (CVC) building in River Street, Maclean.
CVC General Manager Ashley Lindsay said the current health orders and state-wide lockdown have been put in place to keep people safe.
Describing the actions of the protestors as inconsiderate, Mr Lindsay is urging the community to do the right thing.
He said large gatherings could jeopardise the current lockdown, and possibly, cause it to be extended.
“We know the Delta variant of Covid-19 is far more contagious, how easily it can be transmitted, and the increased risk of potential hospitalisation or death, and incidents like these protests can jeopardise the safety of our community,” he said, adding he was also concerned a majority of the protesters were not wearing face masks.
“There are no active cases of Covid-19 in the Clarence Valley, and that’s how we want it to remain.
“Times are extremely difficult for everyone, local businesses are hurting, and we are asking people to please do the right thing and to not put other members of the community at risk.”
Mr Lindsay is strongly urging the community not to participate in further protests or gatherings, and to adhere to the current public health orders.
“Please, be considerate and be mindful of the vulnerable people in our community,” he said.
“We want everyone to stay safe and we don’t want these incidents occurring.”
A local resident who did not wish to be identified, said they witnessed “about 30 seconds of the goings-on,” which occurred during the protest in Grafton.
Confirming they did not participate in the event, the resident said they were shocked by what they saw.
“There was a group of maybe 60 or so people near the council building and several of them were being quite vocal,” they recalled.
“There were several police officers there as well and they were telling the crowd to leave the area because they were in breach of the public health orders.
“I saw a lot of people not wearing face masks or social distancing, and that’s when I thought it’d be best to just stay away, so I did.
“One of my grandkids got on Facebook later on and she told me that some of the people who had been there were arrested.
“I don’t really know what they were rallying about, but we’re all supposed to be in lockdown to prevent this new Covid-19 variant from spreading, and some people still think it’s ok to get together and cause a ruckus.
“Yes, I think the whole lockdown is frustrating, but it’s supposed to help us all get through these shitty times together, and large groups who publicly protest are selfish because they undermine what a lot of the community is already doing to protect ourselves.
“It just astounds me because we’re battling a bloody pandemic.”