NSW Police Slammed For Allegedly Stopping Vivid Punters From Dancing In The Street
"This rare moment of human connection was destroyed by people scouring for ways to assert their petty authority."
— Update: Destination NSW have since responded to the incident. Scroll down for the full statement. —
When faced with claims that the lockout laws are killing Sydney’s culture, one-time Premier Mike Baird pointed to Vivid, an annual celebration of art and music, as proof that the city was not dead.
But despite official word that Vivid is reinvigorating a city rocked by widespread nighttime business closure and a significant downturn in patrons, an incident that took place over the weekend flew in the face of the picture of Sydney government officials like to give.
At 10:30 pm on Saturday June 1, Christie Aucamp-Schutte, the brains behind Free Dance Party, took to the streets with a sign, a boombox, and her dancing shoes. This is not new for Aucamp-Schutte — the aim of Free Dance Party is to start impromptu dance-fests, with the young Sydneysider dancing until somebody joins in with her. “Sometimes one person will dance and sometimes 50 will,” she told Music Junkee.
But after about half an hour of dancing, Aucamp-Schutte noticed the presence of police and rangers — who she says were there to shut down the dance party.
“I was only aware they were shutting me down when they came right up to me. I could see a police car near but other than that no indication.”
Aucamp-Schutte claims she had deliberately picked her dance spot so that it wasn’t blocking entrances or exits. According to Aucamp-Schutte, the ranger refused to let her finish the song, and instructed her to “move along.”
Now, in retrospect, Aucamp-Schutte wishes she had said more. “I feel a bit weak and wish I fought back a bit more and made them tell the crowd exactly why they were shutting it down. I’m petrified of getting a fine so I didn’t put up a fight.
“I felt particularly angry about the Vivid incident. It was a festival! The city was alive for once. How often do you see strangers connecting with each other like this? This rare moment of human connection was destroyed by people scouring for ways to assert their petty authority.”
Footage of the incident has gone viral on Facebook, with commenters siding with Aucamp-Schutte and against the police and rangers. “Thank god for the fun police,” writes one punter, with another pointing to San Francisco as a city where such events go down all the time, without the direct intervention of the police.
“My gosh!” wrote another Facebook user. “All-aged people happily, non- violently engaging with one another! Lucky they shut it down quick smart, it may have turned in to a group hug and friendships made!”
NSW Police have been contacted for comment. See footage of the incident below.
Rangers & Police stopped us from dancing on the street last night at Vivid SydneyThis was completely safe.This was a festivalThis was organic human interaction. Sydney is sanitised and soulless.***ATTENTION Comment from Councillor Jess Scully (part of Clover Moore's team)"Please know this was not shut down by our City of Sydney rangers: this area is controlled by Property aka Place Management NSW, and run by Destination NSW (Vivid Sydney) staff"
Posted by Free Dance Party on Saturday, 1 June 2019
Update: City of Sydney Councillor Jess Scully has since commented on the incident.
Scully: “A closed street, a huge public celebration, what better place and time to dance? I’m so disappointed to see these dancers moved on…Please know this was not shut down by our City of Sydney rangers: this area is controlled by Property aka Place Management NSW, and run by Destination NSW (Vivid Sydney) staff.”
Destination NSW Statement from Property NSW spokesperson:
“To ensure visitors to all the precincts can enjoy Vivid Sydney in a safe and secure environment, the event organiser and precinct landowners have agreed crowd management measures in place to mitigate any activity impacting on pedestrian thoroughfares, especially on the busier weekend evenings.
“As the activity on Friday night was unfortunately obstructing the pedestrian flow, the land owner, along with police and security, respectfully asked the performers to move on and no fines were issued.
“We want people to enjoy Vivid Sydney in a safe, secure environment and we appreciate people understanding and respecting the measures we have put in place to ensure a great time is continued to be had by all.”