Police arrest 23 people after protest blocks access to Port Botany

Police arrest 23 people after protest blocks access to Port Botany

Police have arrested and charged more than 20 people after a pro-Palestinian protest at Sydney’s Port Botany blocked a road leading to the shipping facility on Tuesday night.

In chaotic scenes, police from the riot squad and officers on horseback tried to break up the protest, which included children. Officers dragged protesters from the road after they failed to comply with an order to move on. At one point, protesters lifted a child in a pram over the top of the crowd.

Police arrest Palestinian supporters on Foreshore Road.

Police arrest Palestinian supporters on Foreshore Road. Credit: Wolter Peeters

The protest, which began at 6pm, was directed at Israeli shipping company ZIM, which has offered its support to the Israeli government in its fight with Hamas in Gaza and had a ship at the port on Tuesday.

About 400 people attended the protest, according to police. They were met by officers from Operation Shelter and other units, including the public order and riot squad and police on horseback.

Police said they issued move-on directions to a number of people in the group, but they did not comply and 23 were arrested after they blocked Foreshore Road. The road was cleared about 9pm.

Organiser Ahmed Abadla, from Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, said the police had been violent towards the protesters, whom he said had blocked a smaller access road to Port Botany, and not Foreshore Road.

“There was dragging, pushing, shoving. There were elderly women and girls, and kids in protest, and they didn’t respect that.

“We aim not to have any violence incorporated into our rally. Police started the whole thing and the crowd got angry.”

He said the mood at the protest changed suddenly when protesters tried to pack up food they had brought to give to Port Botany workers, and the child in the pram, who was aged about four, had been seated near the food, at the side of the protest.

“We feared that something would happen and we started moving very quickly, but the police were not helpful in waiting for us.

“We wanted to move the pram from harm’s way. [The police] saw it, they saw the child in the pram, but unfortunately, they didn’t pay any regards to that.”

Those arrested were taken to several police stations, where they were charged with failing to comply with a move-on direction and damaging or disrupting a major facility.

When asked if the protesters were still in custody, a police spokeswoman said details of court appearances would be provided later on Wednesday.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told Channel Nine’s Today that the protest activity “was utterly despicable” and she hated to see violence against the police.

“We’ve got law enforcement officials around the country who put on a uniform every day to try to keep your family safe and my family safe and to subject them to any form of violence is just utterly inexcusable,” she said.

“We’ve got a bunch of people in our country who are feeling incredibly deeply about what’s going on in the Middle East … let’s respect each other, understand the strong views and feelings in the community, but just calm down a bit.”

More to come.

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