New South Wales police back off move to ban protest at Pell memorial

New South Wales police have backed off from a move to ban protestors from coming near the memorial service for Catholic Cardinal George Pell.

Police had applied to the state’s Supreme Court in an attempt to ban the protest from community group Community Action for Rainbow Rights from taking place. The court head that an agreement had been reached would see the protest take place but following an amended route.

The new route will see the protest walk up to College Street, which runs adjacent to St Mary’s Cathederal, but not along it.  Police had previously said they were making their application to the court because they had safety concerns over the protest.

The community group has described the agreement as “a victory for the right to protest”. saying they had been prepared to fight it out before the court.

“Police sought to ban the protest from coming within sight or earshot of funeral attendees. Protest organisers with Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) refused to accept this repression and were ready to fight it out in NSW Supreme Court.” the group said in a statement.

The event is promoted on the group’s Facebook page as the ‘Pell go to Hell! LGBTI protest at George Pell’s funeral’.

Cardinal Pell died in early January, he was previously the Archbishop of Sydney, and before that the Archbishop of Melbourne. Over his long career he often argued against LGBTIQA+ rights, safe sex practices, and marriage equality.

During his time as Archbishop of Melbourne the church was forced to respond to the growing number of cases where clergy had been accused of sexual abuse offences. Under his watch the church launched the Melbourne Response, a protocol for dealing with cases of sexual abuse within the church. He later oversaw a similar process in the Diocese of Sydney.

Pell later faced allegations that earlier in his career he had failed to take action against priests who were accused of sexual abuse. In 2020 the Royal Commission into sexual abuse found that Pell knew about child sexual abuse occurring in the church in the 1970s but failed to take adequate actions to address it. He rejected the finding, saying it was not supported by the evidence.

Protest organiser Kim Stern defended the group’s decision to protest outside the Cardinal’s memorial service.

“Pell was a monster who crusaded against the rights of women, gays and transgender people, and was complicit in a culture of systematic child abuse within the church,” Stern said.

“Police tried to stifle opposition to a public celebration of that man’s disgraceful life. The defiance of activists against this appalling police censorship, and ensuing publicity, has secured our right to march.”

“Pell’s admirers in the conservative establishment, like Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott, want to celebrate a revolting bigot and agent of abuse, and carry on his rightwing culture wars,” said CARR activist Eddie Stephenson.

“We’ve been able to defend the democratic right to publicly reject everything Pell stood for. We call on all progressive people to join us opposite the Cathedral at 10.30am and stand for women’s rights, LGBTI rights and justice for survivors of abuse at the hands of the church.”

Following his passing both the Opposition leader Peter Dutton and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had high praise for the church leader. In a statement following Pell’s passing Abbott described him as a “saint for our times”.

OIP Staff

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