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Police chief predicts APEC battle

Courier Mail | September 5, 2007

PROTESTERS have been denied permission to march to the edge of police lines during an anti-APEC rally in Sydney on Saturday.

The NSW Supreme Court today granted Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's application for an order preventing up to 20,000 people marching to the corner of George and King streets.

The order was granted after dire warnings about the threat of riots this weekend.

"Police lines will come under attack and a full-scale riot is probable," Chief Superintendent Steven Cullen, head of the Public Order and Riot Squad, told the court earlier today.

The Stop Bush Coalition had earlier scaled back the proposed route of its action, which was originally slated to pass through Martin Place.

Counsel for the protesters, Michael Bozic SC, put forward an amended route that would have meant the rally ended at police barriers to be erected at the southern edge of the so-called APEC restricted zone, bordered by King Street.

While Justice Michael Adams agreed freedom of speech was paramount in a democratic society, he said ending the rally at that police barrier would make it a target.

"In my view, the attitude of the commissioner to this application is a reasonable one and accordingly I grant the orders sought," he said.

He agreed with police that ending the rally at King Street would cause problems because of the narrowness of the area, and the lack of exit points.

The court order did not specify which route the march could take, but Justice Adams said he would allow protesters to pass from Sydney's Town Hall down Park Street to Hyde Park.

Outside the court, rally organiser Alex Bainbridge would not rule out going ahead with the march to King Street, and accepted that he and others faced the possibility of arrest.

"The court has made very clear that we have got a right to protest. The court order today prohibits nothing, our rally and demonstration will be going ahead. As we have always said we intend for this to be a peaceful protest," Mr Bainbridge told reporters.

"We have never ruled out non-violent civil disobedience."

The coalition would meet tonight to discuss its options for Saturday, including sticking to the King Street plan, and make an announcement tomorrow.

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