WA COVID jab mandates: City of Fremantle votes down proposal to challenge State over jabs

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Sarah StegerThe West Australian
VideoFurious anti-vaxxers have vented their spleen at the City of Fremantle

Protesters against mandatory COVID vaccines erupted in fury in Fremantle on Wednesday night, after the City rejected a motion urging the council to intervene in the State Government’s jab mandates.

Hundreds of people protesting the mandates banged their fists and hurled their bodies at the glass windows looking into the council building while screaming “shame”, after learning of the decision.

Police on standby rushed to disperse the mob and infuriated members of the gallery were ushered out in an attempt to regain order, before the meeting was adjourned for 15 minutes.

The petition, received at a December 15 council meeting, called for the the City o “form an advocacy position” and get the State Government to reconsider enforcing jabs for workers.

Anti-vax and Pro-vax protesters have gathered at Pioneer Park in Fremantle ahead of the Citys council meeting tonight.
Camera IconAnti-vax and Pro-vax protesters gathered at Pioneer Park before the meeting. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

It was signed by 137 people including business owners who said they were strongly against the requirement to get jabbed.

The City rejected the move at 9pm on Wednesday night, after close to 40 members of the community spoke in support or opposition of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The reading of the vote resulted in an outcry from outside the council building, prompting police to respond and forcing the meeting to come to a brief halt.

VideoFurious anti-vaxxers have vented their spleen at the City of Fremantle after it voted down a motion to challenge the McGowan Government’s COVID vaccination mandates.

Speakers were given a three-minute time limit to make their cases to councillors, their words amplified by a microphone being disinfected after each person, and out through loudspeakers situated around in Kings Square — where hundreds of people gathered.

Steve Gorman called the State’s mandates a “violation of human rights”, telling those in the meeting and the crowds outside that “COVID jabs are indeed the cause of death of many healthy people”.

“Deaths resulting from mandatory vaccination are mandated deaths,” he said, adding that being forced to get jabbed was the “legalised killing of people”.

Both boos and applause could be heard outside throughout the lengthy meeting.

Vashti Fox, a researcher at UWA, said she was “deeply concerned by the mobilisation outside … who are campaigning effectively against some of the most important health measures ever”.

Ms Fox warned the deadly pandemic was going to have knock-on effects, and claimed “many of the people who are engaged in opposing the mandate are on the far right”.

“I want to live in a society which actually cares for these people,” she said, adding that accepting the petition would be “a dangerous precedent to start setting”.

Council officers subsequently recommended the motion be voted down, with a final decision slated to be made Wednesday night.

Anti-vax and Pro-vax protesters have gathered at Pioneer Park in Fremantle ahead of the Citys council meeting tonight.
Camera IconAnti-vax and Pro-vax protesters have gathered at Pioneer Park. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

“While the City recognises and acknowledges the concerns raised by the signatories to this petition, it must also rely on the information provided by the State Government and chief medical officer.

“The City supports economic viability for the wider hospitality sector and the State Governments requirement for vaccinations.”

In response, Councillor Marija Vujcic moved an alternative, four-part recommendation asking for the State Government to reconsider its decision to introduce the mandated restrictions until “further examination of the health risks are undertaken”.

Cr Fedele Camarda seconded her motion at Wednesday’s meeting.

“To me this is grassroots democracy and I’m really proud to be part of it,” Cr Vujcic said. “COVID appeared in early 2020 and almost eradicated influenza … (because) the COVID measures are not unique in controlling the spread of the flu.”

She said the best defence was to strengthen people’s natural immune systems — “so keep fit, limit junk food, limit the sugar, limit alcohol”.

“Omicron has made mandates obsolete,” Cr Vujcic said, urging the City to vote in favour of her alternative recommendation.

“It is going to be a bad flu season. The hospitals will suffer but we will get through it

“Our society will be better for it. Fear is the path to the dark side.”

She received a standing ovation from those sitting in on the meeting rallying against COVID mandates.

Cr Ben Lawver claimed the information presented by Cr Vujcic in her alternative recommendation was incorrect — a statement interrupted by shouts of “boo” and “liar” from both in the room and outside its walls.

Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge told attendees “Freo is a tolerant and inclusive community” and asked for basic standards of respect and kindness.

Cr Andrew Sullivan said he supported the recommendation of the City’s officers and was against Cr Vujcic’s alternative recommendation, but stressed he thought the State could do more to show compassion and empathy in relation to issuing vaccine exemptions.

He said the COVID vaccine was clearly not a “one shoe fits all” matter, despite the manner in which the State was dealing with the virus.

After each part of Cr Vujcic’s recommendation was voted down, the City’s officers’ original recommendation was passed nine votes in favour, and three against - triggering uproar from those outside.

Cr Frank Mofflin later said the City had a role as local government “and this isn’t it”.

Earlier in the night a speaker from the community told how vaccines saved lives.

“Anything that increases the number of vaccinations is good and anything that undermines that is bad,” Barry Healy said.

“Mandated vaccinations are warranted … I ask you to support good health based on good science.”

A former police officer said her partner, who also worked for the police, had quit “to maintain bodily autonomy” and claimed officer morale was at an all-time low.

Former South African Grant Van Rensburg claime Australia was trying to adopt apartheid by mandating COVID vaccines.

“Somewhere along the line I thought of Auschwitz and genocide,” he said.

But Catherine Cheesman used her allotted three minutes to ask for priority to be given to the vulnerable.

“I abide by the mandate like I abide with speed limits,” she said. “And I deserve to go to work and not die from COVID,” she said.

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