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‘Literally fascism’: Australian man sentenced to maximum of 8 months in prison for organizing ‘unauthorized’ anti-lockdown protest

‘Literally fascism’: Australian man sentenced to maximum of 8 months in prison for organizing ‘unauthorized’ anti-lockdown protest
A 29-year-old Australian man has been sentenced to the maximum eight months in prison for helping to organize an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney, which has experienced strict Covid-19 restrictions for several months.

New South Wales Police announced the sentence in a statement on Friday, revealing that the man had been imprisoned for “multiple breaches of the Public Health Order,” as well as for his part in organizing the “unauthorized protest” set for this weekend.

The man, who is from the state of Victoria, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Covid-19 directions, encouraging “the commission of crimes,” and false representation, police said.

Sydney Morning Herald reporter Angus Thompson noted on Twitter that the publicization of a person’s imprisonment by NSW Police was “unusual” and theorized that it was intended to scare other potential protesters in Sydney ahead of the weekend protest.

The sentence angered many Australians on social media, as well as people from around the world, who condemned the move as authoritarian and compared NSW Police to the Nazi Gestapo.

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“Imprisoned over planning a protest. How did we get here?” questioned one Sydney woman, while a man from Washington, DC argued, “This is literally fascism.”

Others used the hashtag #FreeAustralia, criticized NSW Police’s use of the dystopian phrase “unauthorized protest,” and pointed out that a man in the neighboring state of Queensland had been released on probation in February after being caught with nearly 300,000 inappropriate images of children, which included child pornography.

Not everyone was opposed to the man’s imprisonment, however, with several social media users – including a Sydney journalist – praising NSW Police for the “great work.”

The man will be eligible for parole after three months in prison.

Sydney’s current Covid-19 lockdown was extended on Friday until the end of September, and a curfew was also implemented. Residents of the city have been ordered to stay at home since June and are only able to leave if they have a “reasonable excuse.” Reasonable excuses include purchasing food, getting vaccinated against Covid-19, exercise, and going to work if the job cannot be conducted from home.

New South Wales has recorded 16,353 of Australia’s 42,228 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in March last year, as well as 119 of Australia’s 974 deaths.

Due to Australia’s strict border restrictions, which have prohibited most travel to and from the country and even left tens of thousands of citizens and residents stranded abroad, the country has had some of the lowest numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the entire world. More recently, however, the virus has started to spread – aided at least partially by Australia’s very low vaccination rate.

Just 22% of Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, ranking the country 35th out of 38 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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