Police and the Port Stephens mayor have slammed the actions of a group who breached the public health order in Raymond Terrace last week to protest against COVID-19 safety measures, labelling their actions as "frustrating" and "selfish".
Port Stephens police Inspector Dan Skelly said there would be no leniency for those who could be identified in the group of 30 people who gathered outside the council chambers in Adelaide Street on Tuesday, August 31.
"At no other time has it been more important for us, especially in our local community, to observe the public health order because of how we've been touched with COVID-19. It's no longer a Sydney problem. It's problem in Raymond Terrace, in Nelson Bay, in Maitland," he said.
"We're incredibly frustrated on behalf of the community. Most people in the community are obeying the public health order but there are a select group of people who are conscientious objectors and are rebelling against the health order.
"The public health order is in place and with good reason. It is designed to keep the community safe."
The Raymond Terrace protest was one of 79 held across NSW on August 31 during which a police Inspector received a minor injury when he was allegedly shoved, an act that Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer called "disrespectful".
"Those who attended the protest last Tuesday are out of line with the vast majority of our amazing community, who are consistently doing the right thing to protect everyone and help us get through this," he said.
"The fact that a police officer was injured shows the disrespect these people have for our community. It was a selfish act that put people at risk, wasted police resources and in the end, achieved nothing."
Police arrested five people during protests in Raymond Terrace and Maitland.
A 57-year-old man was arrested during the Raymond Terrace protest after he allegedly shoved the Inspector. The Inspector had approached the man and asked why he was not wearing a mask. Police allege the 57-year-old became agitated and was "inciting the crowd to approach police". The Inspector attempted to arrest the man, who allegedly grabbed him by the shirt and pushed him backwards.
The man was arrested and charged with assaulting police and resisting arrest, as well as breaching public health orders.
Across Raymond Terrace and Maitland, police issued 12 penalty infringement notices, the majority for not complying with the stay at home order (a $3000 fine) and not wearing a mask ($500).
A further 10 people were fined between Friday and Monday after police released images of 12 Raymond Terrace protestors in a bid to identify them.
"As I said to the group on the day, each and every one of them, if we can identify them, they will have the full force of the law brought against them," Inspector Skelly said.
"This will happen in all instances where we have public disobedience against the public health order. Their photos will be taken and those we can't arrest on the day for one reason or another, we will post their photos and try and ID them that way. And when we do, they will be getting a penalty notice."
Between August 16 and September 9, police have issued 349 penalty notices in the Port Stephens-Hunter district for COVID-19 law breaches. Of those, 36 were issued between Friday and midnight Sunday.
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