Charges dismissed for praying protesters

(Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson)

Protesters arrested in the Sydney office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison last month have had their charges dismissed.

The five Christians were arrested after their group held a prayer vigil in reaction to what they described as Australia’s “cruel treatment” of asylum seekers on March 21.

A spokeswoman for the group said the charges were dismissed after they pled guilty to trespass in Sutherland Local Court this afternoon.

She said the magistrate noted that the protest was peaceful.

“This was the other end of the scale to the Cronulla riots,” she said.

Earlwood resident Justin Whelan, 38, was one of those who faced court over the protest he described as an appeal to Mr Morrison to “rediscover the ideals of his maiden speech”.

He was joined by Blue Mountains resident Donna Mulhearn, 45.

“I have witnessed first-hand the conflict and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine I feel compelled to take action to draw attention to the plight of asylum seekers,” she said.

They were joined in court by Zetland resident Jaxon Jennings, 21, and Woolloomooloo resident Jody Lightfoot, 28.

The fifth member of the group, 33-year-old Midland resident Jarrod McKenna, did not appear in court. 

The group was supported by approximately two dozen protesters who gathered outside the court to hold another “asylum seeker prayer vigil”.

Protest spokesman Matt Anslow said the vigil participants had come from different Christian denominations, including Catholic and Uniting Church, as well as non-Christians.

Mr Anslow said his group had not had any contact with Mr Morrison since the March 21 protest.

"We recognise that we've been a party to allowing our government to continue these policies," he said.

"...Today is less about an outcome, it's about support".

He had told SBS that the March protest was not intended to target Mr Morrison in a negative way.

“We were praying also for Mr Morrison, not in a way that was condemning or judgemental," he said.

"We were actually praying that Mr Morrison might have a change of heart. In his maiden speech for Federal Parliament, Mr Morrison gave a really amazing outline of his vision that included justice and compassion for vulnerable people… For us, we were hoping Mr Morrison might have a change of heart and join us.”

Source SBS

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