'Professionals' blamed for pro-Palestine protest clash

"Professional protesters" were among a group of people charged over a pro-Palestine rally at a Sydney port that ended in clashes with police, a senior officer claims.

Twenty-three people were arrested near Port Botany on Tuesday night after about 400 protesters turned up to campaign against the arrival of an Israeli-owned container ship.

Amongst those arrested was Eric Herbert, 24, who was charged with disrupting a major facility, obstructing drivers and failing to comply with police.

He was refused bail to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday, when he was released on the condition that he did not go within 1km of the port or take part in unlawful protests.

Herbert's court appearance came nearly two years after a magistrate jailed him for 12 months for obstructing a coal train during a Blockade Australia protest at a Newcastle port.

Another protester, a 29-year-old woman, was released on Wednesday, while another 21 people will appear in various courts at later dates. All face similar charges to Herbert.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said police were "very patient" in dealing with the group, which she said included a "large number of professional protesters".

"Currently (they) are protesting about the Gaza conflict, but next week they'll protest about something else," she said.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and called for a ceasefire in Gaza while gathered near a boat ramp at Foreshore Road, which leads to the port.

Officers issued a group move-on direction but police said several protesters defied numerous orders and disrupted traffic.

Videos posted to social media showed officers wrestling with some members of the group before the road was cleared about 9pm.

NSW Premier Chris Minns rejected suggestions police were over-the-top in dealing with the protesters, saying officers acted after move-on directions were ignored.

"There's no city in the world that has been handling this perfectly (and) the NSW Police have been doing a very good job in very difficult circumstances," he said on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Chris Minns rejects claims police were ‘heavy-handed’ at a pro-Palestine protest.

The protest was organised by Palestine Justice Movement Sydney with the support of the Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia.

They were protesting the arrival of the container ship Calandra, operated by Israeli company ZIM.

ZIM has offered the use of its vessels to the Israeli government in its war against Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist organisation by the Australian government.

Ahmed Abadla, from Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, criticised the arrests and the "shocking police violence" during the Port Botany rally.

He said police targeted them under new anti-protest laws, introduced in NSW last year, which were "accelerating the dangerous repressive turn in politics".

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Democracy Network also condemned the police response, saying officers started issuing move-on directions when protesters were sitting peacefully without obstructing traffic.

"We call on the NSW government and NSW Police to respect the right to protest and ensure that individuals can gather to express their political views without police repression," the groups said in a joint statement.

NSW Greens MP and justice spokesperson Sue Higginson thanked protesters for their "courage and moral clarity".

"Business as usual cannot continue while the situation in Gaza deteriorates," she said.

But Mr Minns said it would be hugely damaging to the economy if ports were blocked because "one group or another has a political disagreement with another country".

A coalition of Palestinian unions and associations has called on workers worldwide to boycott Israel and businesses that support its regime.

ZIM has been contacted for comment.

There have been numerous pro-Palestine and pro-Israel rallies across Australia since October 7, when Islamist militants crossed into southern Israel from Gaza.

The Hamas soldiers killed more than 1200 Israelis and took more than 200 people hostage.

According to authorities in Gaza, retaliatory strikes by Israel have resulted in the deaths of 13,000 people.

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