Groups criticize laws forbidding ‘causing annoyance’ to WYD pilgrims

Sydney, Australia, Jul 2, 2008 / 05:53 am (CNA) .- Laws introduced in the Australian state of New South Wales to prevent people from “causing annoyance” or inconvenience to participants in World Youth Day now face stiff criticism for their requirements that organizations have placards, banners and T-shirts pre-approved by authorities.

Protesting without police clearance could result in demonstrators being charged under new regulations which came into effect on Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reveals.

Some protesters have said they will defy the regulations and risk a $5,500 fine.

One online retailer is selling T-shirts that say “$5500 - a small price to pay for annoying Catholics.”

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the new laws were no different from police powers concerning sporting venues.

“Anyone engaging in behavior so as to prevent people from across the world participating in the event, or impacting on their ability to participate, will need to be dealt with,” a police statement said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A statement from the Catholic Church said “neither the Catholic Church nor Cardinal Pell asked for the additional police powers” and added “we understand some people may want to protest and they have the right to do so peacefully and lawfully.”

Kristina Keneally, the Minister for World Youth Day, said the laws were framed based upon advice from police and after consulting with the Church. She stressed that the laws were not drafted at the behest of Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney.

Police have begun to schedule meetings with some possible protesters and pranksters, which include sex abuse victims’ groups, “anti-homophobia” and “pro-contraception” activists, and comedians.