KEEP SYDNEY OPEN - The Rally against lock-outs

Article from news.com.au reporter Lauren McMah

“WE HAVE had enough” has been the message from several thousands of people marching through Sydney this afternoon to protest the city’s controversial lockout laws.

More than 15,000 people are believed to have turned out to the rally, hosted by the Keep Sydney Open campaign, which began in Belmore Park at midday and culminated in Hyde Park with speeches and live music.

The mostly young crowd — also joined by Baby Boomers and small children — sang and cheered as they marched along Elizabeth St towards Hyde Park in a loud but peaceful display.

Along the way the crowd paused outside venues that had closed in the wake of the lockout laws to mark their respect with resounding applause.

But while in generally jubilant spirits, the protesters also made clear their dissatisfaction with the NSW government’s lockout laws, which they variously accused of restricting personal liberties, destroying Sydney’s night-life and threatening businesses and jobs in the music and hospitality industries.

“This has gone beyond simply not being able to get into a club late at night,” Paddington resident Natalie Juresic told news.com.au.

“It’s now about reclaiming Sydney and that includes reclaiming our night-life from the demolition of small businesses, of musical creativity and of innovation in the hospitality industry.”

Surry Hills resident Josh Stokes told news.com.au he would like to see a lifting of the Sydney lockouts, which were part of a suite of anti-violence measures introduced in NSW in early 2014.

“I think it’s unfair that a few peoples’ mistakes ruin the fun for everyone,” he said.

“It’s like when you’re at school and one person does something wrong and everyone else is punished.”

Protesters were especially critical of the exemption of casinos from the lockout regime.

TV producer and DJ Tyson Koh from the Keep Sydney Open campaign said the rally aimed to give a voice to the many thousands of Sydneysiders who felt the lockout laws were not satisfactory.

“The message is that we want our government to try harder when it comes to legislating for us,” he told news.com.au.

“At the moment they’ve played political football with our night-life and also the vibrancy of our city, when really we can have a safe and vibrant night life at the same time.

“We have a lot of measures on the table that we know will achieve this, and we’re looking at alternative policies based on how other cities have managed to both have a vibrant and safe night life.

“I think the premier has really misjudged the passion that people have for seeing a more reasonable way forward that protects our night-life while reducing assault,” he said.

“I think he’s also misjudged how rational and reasonable and wholistic our argument is as well. “He hasn’t been served by shutting out the businesses and stakeholders who can add a lot of value to the conversation and he has a really limited perspective on this situation. Hopefully, moving, forward he’ll be more open.”

Mr Koh said 24-hour weekend public transport in cities such as Melbourne and New York City, more active policing to deter anti-social activity, first aid tents and street marshalls were among the alternative strategies that would be discussed at today’s rally.

“In other cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam there are mayors that purely look after the night-time economy,” he said.

“We also want to invest in anti-violence campaigns that are publicly funded, and basically strengthen our ability to target the violent people in our society rather than enforcing things that impact on the 99 per cent of people who go out and aim to have a safe night.”

Sydney artists including Isabella Manfredi, Nina Las Vegas and Dave Faulkner from the Hoodoo Gurus addressed the crowds after they arrived at Hyde Park.