Tensions flare after cops swoop on western Sydney funeral amid claims of ‘double standards’
Police have broken up a funeral service attended by dozens of people in Sydney’s west, but mourners claim they remained in their cars, allowing only 10 people to attend in person as per health orders.
Tensions flared when officers moved them on from Rookwood Cemetery on Wednesday, citing that many individuals were from outside the council area.
Officers were called to the cemetery in Lidcombe on Wednesday morning and found between 80 and 100 people.
The majority followed directions to leave the area, but four men, aged between 32 and 43, did not follow orders, police allege.
They were arrested and one of the men, a 33-year-old, allegedly became abusive and threatened officers.
He was charged with three counts of intimidating a police officer, using offensive language in/near a public place or school and failing to comply with the current health order.
The man was refused bail and appeared at Burwood Local Court on Thursday.
The three other men, aged 32, 34 and 43, were issued fines for breaching public health orders.
But the Muslim community is fuming, with many saying they have been unfairly treated and those in the city’s east have not experienced the same police presence as they flock to beaches and parks.
“(We) condemn the double standards regarding the application of restrictions observed across Sydney. The stark differences witnessed in the treatment of people in southwest Sydney and those of the eastern suburbs is completely unacceptable,” the Lebanese Muslim Association said in a statement.
The group said it had sought an urgent meeting with police, health officials and those in charge of Rookwood Cemetery so they didn’t experience recurring incidents like this as Muslim families buried their loved ones.
“People who were grieving the deaths of their relatives should not have been placed into the position they were yesterday,” a statement read.
“The cultural and religious ignorance of local police officers reinforces the division that has plagued minorities in southwest and western Sydney.
“We cannot be treated like everything we do is suspicious or in breach of public health orders or a crime.”
President Samier Dandan questioned why beachgoers were allowed to flock to Bondi, given health authorities keep saying the safest place is outdoors, but mourners were not allowed to attend a funeral outdoors.
He urged the government to allow more people to attend outdoor funerals so they could bury loved ones without the risk of “humiliation or arrest”.
The mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown said Sydney had been turned into “two classes of people” by rules that unfairly penalised one region over another.
Khal Asfour said he was “angry” and “frustrated” after seeing crowds flock to the beaches in the eastern suburbs.
“One gets arrested when they’re grieving. The other gets to sunbake,” he told the ABC’s Q+A.
“It’s concerning what’s going to happening … for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“We saw the pictures on the weekend from Bondi and Coogee and the eastern suburbs beaches.
“When we’re stuck at home and we don’t have any hours of recreation, it makes my community frustrated. We’re fatigued after 12 weeks of lockdown now.”
The curfew has been lifted in the 12 LGAs of concern but a 10-person limit on funerals remains.
NSW is expected to open back up on October 18 when at least 70 per cent of the eligible population should be fully vaccinated.
Originally published as Tensions flare after cops swoop on western Sydney funeral amid claims of ‘double standards’
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