Anti-Vaxxination Protest Campers Ordered To Leave EPIC by Sunday As Royal Canberra Show Approaches
By Hannah Neale | Miriam Webber
Protesters from the so-called Convoy to Canberra group who have been camping at Exhibition Park in Canberra since last week have been given notice to vacate the space by Sunday.
Some protesters have told The Canberra Times they do not intend to comply with eviction notices, though the majority have stated they will look for alternative arrangements.
EPIC management has told ACT Policing that widespread camping at the site needs to cease by the end of the weekend, with preparations for the Royal Canberra Show due to start soon.
“People who remain in EPIC after this time may be considered trespassing,” police said in a statement.
The protesters are made up of a number of loosely affiliated groups, such as sovereign citizens, anti-vaccine conspiracists and evangelical groups, but have been demonstrating together against vaccine mandates.
Police expecting 4000 at Saturday protests
AFP Commander of Operations Linda Champion said 4000 protesters are expected to be in Canberra on Saturday, and that police are “really hoping that most move on naturally, that they’ll be going home after the big day”.
“Those that stay behind, we will be talking to them as we do with any people that we want to move on. If we need to, we will do more actions as required.”
Commander Champion reassured Canberrans that police would be out in numbers on Saturday in order to monitor safety.
“We will have numbers where we need to have them so that [Canberrans can continue their day-to-day]. There will be disruptions of course we acknowledge that,” she said.
“But as for safety, that’s why we’re out there and we’ve got full strength on tomorrow to do so.”
$25,000 lump sum payment made by campers
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a payment of about $25,000 was made to book the camp sites, but there were more people on the site than there were sites.
“The rental agreement for some people has ended, and some people have left. For others it extends to Saturday night. So we expect people to be leaving on Sunday,” Mr Barr said.
The ACT government later clarified the money was paid in a lump sum, but by a number of people.
The Chief Minister said police were ready and had enough officers to move any of the last stragglers from the site.
“We’ve been through this process once already in terms of managing a move on at the end of a protest, so the same process will apply. It was effectively managed in the Parliamentary Triangle,” he said.
The group moved to the current site after they were moved on from an illegal campsite near the National Library last week.
Farmers Markets cancelled over safety concerns
ACT Policing said it urged those staying at EPIC to respect the management of the venue and arrange to leave the facility peacefully by Sunday.
The Lifeline Bookfair at EPIC opened as planned on Friday, but after a large influx of protesters organisers decided to close it for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday’s Capital Regional Farmers Market were cancelled due to safety concerns, too. Authorities are also preparing in case protesters converge on the AIS Arena on Saturday to disrupt “Superhero Day” and target children lining up for their first jab.
ACT Policing said it supported the right of individuals to conduct peaceful protests, but visitors camping in the ACT needed to do so lawfully.