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A Dance Party Rally in Support of Pill Testing Is Taking to the Streets of Sydney This Weekend

The multi-stage protest is also calling for the NSW Government to significantly curb its use of strip-searches and sniffer dogs.
By Libby Curran
November 19, 2019
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A Dance Party Rally in Support of Pill Testing Is Taking to the Streets of Sydney This Weekend

The multi-stage protest is also calling for the NSW Government to significantly curb its use of strip-searches and sniffer dogs.
By Libby Curran
November 19, 2019
  shares

The debate around pill testing has stirred months of back and forth between advocates and those — including the NSW Government — who remain firmly opposed to the idea of introducing the harm reduction tactic at music festivals. In a push to get the State Government to reconsider, four Sydney advocacy groups have teamed up to host another big protest, set to take to the streets of Sydney on Saturday, November 23, ahead of Australia's festival-packed summer season.

Kicking off at 2pm from Sydney Town Hall, the Dance In Defiance protest is being hosted by Reclaim The Streets, Keep Sydney Open, Unharm and Students For Sensible Drug Policy — the same alliance that organised a similar 2000-person rally back in January. Once again, the groups will be showing their support for pill testing, but, this time, they're also calling for the Government to significantly cut back its use of sniffer dogs and strip-searches, both which have been copping growing amounts of criticism. As reported by The Guardian, the NSW Police watchdog has investigated multiple allegations of police misusing their strip-search powers.

The protest also comes after Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame delivered her findings from a coronial inquest investigating 2018's spate of drug-related festival deaths. In a report released earlier this month, Grahame recommended implementing pill testing, scrapping the use of sniffer dogs at festivals and even decriminalising personal drug use. Despite the findings, the NSW Government has reiterated its anti-pill testing stance, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian telling the ABC that pill testing gave festivalgoers a "false sense of security".

Image: Keep Sydney Open rally 2016 by Kimberley Low

The State Government's response doesn't come as too much of a surprise, given its unwavering stance against pill testing, even in the face of strong supporting evidence from an array of international and local trials and studies. After two young people died of suspected drug overdoses at Defqon 1 in 2018, the Premier assembled an expert panel to offer advice on music festival safety. Since then, another three festivalgoers have died. The panel's recommendations ignored pill testing and instead inspired harsh new festival licensing, which was introduced earlier this year. The legislation required 14 'high risk' festivals to apply for new liquor licences, and follow strict and expensive safety management plans, and has been slammed by many in the music and festival industries for its shortsightedness. At least two NSW festivals were forced to cancel as a result of costs associated with the new legislation.

The State Government has, thankfully, agreed to establish a music industry roundtable, with members from both the festival sector and relevant government departments, to consult on festival safety and legislation. The first roundtable will meet on December 4, but, at this stage, it seems unlikely that it'll change the State Government's strong anti-pill testing stance.

"With the evidence piling up, the Liberals' refusal to introduce pill testing reveals the disturbing truth: They'd rather see more kids die than admit their war on drugs is a disaster," said Reclaim the Streets spokesperson Kieran Adair in a statement. "That's why we're taking to the streets again to dance in defiance."

The multi-stage mobile protest will include a heap of local musicians, including Dunk, Breakneck, Church of Screamin' Electro and 1800Bike Rave, with more to be announced in the lead up.

Dance In Defiance will kick off at 2pm at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday, November 23.

Top image: Kimberley Low.

Published on November 19, 2019 by Libby Curran

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