By Andrew M Potts -
The organisers of Sydney’s May 21 Marriage Equality rally next to the Sydney Town Hall say the event will go ahead with or without out police permission.
In January police decided people wishing to hold events beside the Town Hall needed the permission of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, which owns most of Sydney Square. That resulted in the Diocese telling organisers of the International Women’s Day March in Sydney that they would now have to seek permission to begin the march in the square on a year-by-year basis.
Marriage Equality Rally organiser and Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) co-convenor Benjamin Cooper told the Star Observer that they had been given permission by police to hold a rally in March this year without permission from the diocese, and they had never sought or been asked to seek permission from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in the past.
However police emailed organisers on May 11, informing them that the “proposed venue [is] unable to hold this event due to conflicting cathedral activities and ongoing maintenance.”
Sydney Diocese media officer Russell Powell told the Star Observer that maintenance issues meant the square could not be used for large gatherings
“We have received no application from this group, but in any case the square is under maintenance,” Powell said.
“Fencing has been erected on the western forecourt and the square cannot be used for large gatherings until at least the end of the month.”
Powell would not elaborate on what “cathedral activities” were or the conflict.
CAAH co-convener Cat Rose said people had a democratic right to protest.
“We have held protests in this space for years without complaint,” Rose said.
“The church’s congregation has always met for their services alongside us without problem. This area is used by everyone in Sydney as a public space. We will not be stopped because of the police and church’s preference for us not to protest.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was disappointed the Anglican Church had refused permission for the marriage equality rally in Sydney Square and that protesters would be allowed to use a strip of the square owned by the City of Sydney.
“I have been happy to support and speak at these well-managed and peaceful rallies over the past few years,” More said.
“The City has no objections to its section of Sydney Square being used for this and similar rallies.”