The Freedom Day protest in Sydney on July 24 attracted tens of thousands of citizens who carried signs demanding freedom from health mandates which have crippled the state.
Most of the protestors in attendance appear to come from Covid hot spots under the toughest restrictions.
Sydney has been in a state of increased Covid restrictions since June's Bondi Cluster. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently suspended the construction industry for at least two weeks, along with the city’s harshest lockdown rules which limit residents to a 5km radius of their homes. Only one person per household may shop for essential items, with ‘browsing’ outlawed and business limited to large retailers for ‘essential items’.
In the wake of the Freedom Day protest’s success, the NSW Police Force has taken to social media, asking for citizens to report on their neighbours and hand in anyone who was seen attending the protest.
Police say that they have received over 5,000 tip offs.
The team of detectives assigned to the new task force have issued 510 fines in 24 hours with most of those related to the protest.
Police have set up Strike Force Seasoned to hunt down members of the public – a move that comes in stark contrast to images of the same NSW Police allowing Black Lives Matter protests to go ahead in the middle of the last Covid outbreak. While some arrests were made, police statements were conciliatory and there were no appeals to the public for mass arrests.
TikTok Guy, real name Jon-Bernard Kairouz, was arrested at his home and charged for making an appearance at the Freedom Rally where he led crowds with a message about liberty.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here as the people’s premier! Now I will say, I’ve crunched the numbers, I don’t think cases are going to be going up tomorrow, but what I’m calculating is that there’s over 50,000 people here today.
“We are here for businesses, for people who are doing it tough. All we want is freedom!”
Widely filmed by onlookers, he became a target for the social media mob following police directions to report those in attendance.
Daily Telegraph journalist Adella Beaini was among those helping police track down protesters by posting pictures of his face at the Freedom Rally under the caption, “I hope they all feel the full force of the law”.
Jessica McSweeney, reporter at the Sunday Telegraph, also dobbed in TikTok Guy, who has since been fined.
Kairouz was issued with a penalty infringement notice and a court attendance notice for two counts of failing to comply with a covid direction and encouraging commission of a crime.
A range of social media accounts have claimed to be mass-reporting Freedom Day protestors.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the protests were ‘selfish and self-defeating’ which achieve ‘no purpose’.
Australia’s Freedom Day protests are trailing behind international protests against Covid measures, which have been swelling to unmanageable numbers in places like France and Greece. Threats of mandatory vaccination and vaccine passports have seen people take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands in major European cities.
The growing global sentiment against lockdowns and harsh government restrictions, appears lost on Berejiklian, who is among a shrinking minority of leaders pursuing a Covid zero approach.
“I am utterly disgusted by the illegal protesters in the city today whose selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“This type of activity during lockdown will not be tolerated and the full force of the law will be brought against anyone who engages in this type of illegal activity.”
It is unclear what citizens are supposed to do when the government prevents them from working for months on end and forbids public gatherings to protest against economically destructive decisions. Australian politicians remain on full pay, having enjoyed pay rises during the course of the pandemic.
Further protests are planned, with NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys announcing the tough stance that police intend to take against those gathering to demand freedom.
“There are some discussions … there’s some information on the internet at the moment about potential protests this Saturday. Can I just put this warning out now to everyone, [it] will be heavily policed. We will be taking the ground very early, you will be arrested.
“The community has spoken about that behaviour, the Premier has spoken about that behaviour, and it won’t be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, the community in question continues to make preparations for a second march to demand an end to lockdowns that are ruining their lives.