“I’m exceptionally proud of the efforts of all the officers on the ground who quickly dispersed that crowd to Central Station where they left the area.”
A 24-year-old woman from Panania was arrested after failing to comply with a move on direction and was subsequently issued with a penalty infringement notice for breaching a public health order. She has since been released.
Commissioner Willing said that, while it was good to see event organisers urging people to go home, the protesters should not have been out.
“I thought they were in disarray,” he said. “They didn’t really realise the capability that we had on the ground and what we could do.”
He added that social media reports that police had used a “sound weapon” were incorrect. Rather, they had used a megaphone to issue warnings and move on directions to the crowd.
At least 600 police were involved in Friday night’s operation, many of whom surrounded Town Hall before the protest. Officers also lined one side of the Town Hall light rail stop.
By 6.30pm, protesters had relocated to Hyde Park and began chanting “Black Lives Matter”, while some people held photos of Indigenous people who have died in custody.
Police interrupted a woman speaking into a megaphone to say those who continued protesting would be arrested.
One female protester urged people to disperse or head home.
After a brief face-off with police outside St James Station, protesters walked through Hyde Park, passing the statue of James Cook, which was surrounded by mounted police.
Police followed them, asking the protesters to move on.
Protesters Sana Tamoowala and Louise Dolan said the rainy weather didn’t dampen their spirits.
“It’s never a waste [to come out], they [the police] know people are willing to keep fighting – they’re not too scared,” Ms Tamoowala said.
Ms Dolan took part in last Saturday’s protest and was at Central Station when police used pepper spray to disperse a small group after the main rally had ended.
“It was disturbing to see,” she said of the incident.
A separate prohibited protest is scheduled for Saturday, which could open up attendees to prosecution.
The rally, organised by the Refugee Action Coalition, was taken to court by NSW Police over concerns relating to COVID-19 and public gatherings on Thursday night.
“We’re quite prepared to put sufficient resources on the ground tomorrow and any other day to deal with any issues that come up,” Mr Willing said.
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Dominic Lorrimer is a photographer at The Sydney Morning Herald