Australia will not condon condom protestors at WYD

Australian police get special powers against pope protesters Tue Jul 1, 1:25 AM ET

SYDNEY (AFP) - Protesters planning to hand out condoms to Catholic pilgrims during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Australia this month face arrest under special new police powers, critics said Tuesday.

Police and emergency service volunteers will be able to stop conduct that "causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants" in World Youth Day events expected to draw hundreds of thousands of young people to Sydney.

"To make something that causes inconvenience to people the basis for a criminal offence is both unnecessary and repugnant," said the president of the New South Wales Bar Association, Anna Katzmann.

The presence of someone wearing the clothes or insignia of another religion could be seen as annoying or inconvenient, as could the presence of protesters, Katzmann said in a statement on behalf of the lawyers' group.

"If I were to wear a T-shirt proclaiming that 'World Youth Day is a waste of public money' and refuse to remove it when an officer of the Rural Fire Service asks me to, I would commit a criminal offence," she said.

"How ridiculous is that?"

A group calling itself the NoToPope Coalition has already announced plans to hand out condoms to pilgrims as part of protests against the pope's opposition to contraception, homosexuality and abortion.

The coalition, which brings together Christians, atheists and gay groups, plans to rally in the city on July 19 and march towards Randwick Racecourse where pilgrims will be gathering for a papal mass the next day.

A Greens member of the state parliament, Lee Rhiannon, said the "draconian" powers were not about managing public safety, noting that police coped each year with a million New Year's Eve revellers in the city.

"This is about shutting down protests and quarantining the pope and visiting Catholics away from messages that World Youth Day authorities don't approve of," she said.

State Premier Morris Iemma defended the police powers.

"People have the right to protest, they can do so, they can do so peacefully and lawfully," he said.

The five-day celebration of Catholic youth, ending with the mass which is expected to draw some 500,000 people, has been billed as a major boost to the economy of Australia's largest city.

But there has been a stream of grumbles over the event's cost, its impact on businesses as well as the inconvenience it will cause the city's residents.

The coalition said it would also protest state funding of almost 110 million dollars (104 million US) for an event staged by the Catholic Church, saying it should be spent on community services instead.

About 26 percent of Australia's 21 million people described themselves as Catholics in the most recent census, while 19 percent said they had no religion


I wish the police in the US had such guts.

de Brantigny

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