Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Dave Roptell.
Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Dave Roptell.

Community ‘cannot be ignorant’ of Covid-19 rules

POLICE have urged those protesting against Telstra's upgrade to 5G in Mullumbimby to abide by physical distancing rules.

Hundreds of people gathered in Dalley St on Wednesday and returned yesterday.

Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Dave Roptell said Telstra had since put those works - to upgrade an existing tower to a 5G facility - on hold.

Police arrested one man on Wednesday but have not yet laid any formal charges or issued fines over the protests.

But Supt Roptell said investigations were ongoing.

While the Byron Shire's number of Covid-19 cases has been stagnant at 16 for a week, Supt Roptell stressed the importance of abiding by the public health restrictions.

"Whilst we support people's freedom of speech and people's rights to communicate their concerns and their worries, we ask people to really take into consideration the rights and … wellbeing of others in the community," Supt Roptell said.

He said the protests had caused "angst and worry" for many in the community, based on calls police have been receiving.

"Rightfully these people are concerned because we do have a number of new regulations and people cannot be ignorant to the fact we have these new regulations," he said.

He said the protesters were putting themselves and the wider community at risk.

A video circulating online from the protests pictured one woman encouraging people to bring their families, including their grandparents, to take part.

"Having protests and assemblies in small community areas is basically something we want people to reconsider," Supt Roptell said.

"What I do ask is to express your concerns by other means.

"To go down (and) congregate in large numbers in the community does create a lot of worry and angst."

He said veterans and their families were being asked to stay home on Anzac Day in a move unheard of.

"We've got Anzacs … and families of Anzacs that can't get out there and march," he said.

"These people can't get out and do that.

"So bear that in mind when you choose to get out there and conduct an assembly or a protest of any sort in these times."

While no fines have yet been issued over the protests, he said police had "a lot of video footage" and he expects some action to be taken.

"Whilst you've got a lot of people at a particular scene … it's hard to get in there and take that firm action," he said.

"But action will be taken."

Supt Roptell said most people across the district were well-behaved over Easter and during Covid-19 restrictions, there's been a general downturn in crime.

"For the month of April we have seen a reduction in crime," he said.