A Black Lives Matter protest set to attract hundreds in Newcastle has been authorised by the NSW Supreme Court.
NSW Police on Thursday made an application to prohibit the assembly, scheduled to begin at Civic Park on Sunday from 1pm and expected to draw about 500 people.
The court on Friday heard the event would proceed regardless of any decision made, but that defendant Taylah Gray, a 23-year-old Wiradjuri woman who is also one of the organisers, would withdraw if it was deemed unauthorised.
Justice Christine Adamson said Ms Gray had cooperated with police and that it was more likely the public health risk would be minimised - through wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and physical distancing - by her presence.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told the court via video link that while the event presented a low risk, she was "vigilant" about the evolving situation in Melbourne.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the Newcastle protest would bring about an "unnecessary and unacceptable risk" of coronavirus exposure whether authorised or not.
"This is about police supporting health regulations within NSW and enforcing... those health regulations for the safety of our community," Mr Mitchell told the court.
"We have no control over who comes to this public assembly."
He said there was no political pressure involved in the application to prohibit the assembly and that police would not make mass arrests.
Ms Gray said it was difficult to accurately predict how many people would attend.
The final-year University of Newcastle law student said those feeling unwell, as well as any other vulnerable people, had been encouraged not to attend, while 18 volunteers would be committed to carry out a coronavirus safety plan.
Outside court, Ms Gray said it was important for the protest to go ahead with authorisation while there was still momentum provided by the international Black Lives Matter movement.
"We're really happy with the court's outcome and we're pleased that they are on the right side of history," she told reporters.
"I'm advocating for everything I am. It's very important - it's not just an interest of mine, it's my essence."
Ms Gray's lawyer Sidnie Sarang said the decision meant protesters could attend the action without risk of move-on orders or the fear of "over-excessive police force".
She also said police seemed to unfairly target protests at the same as easing restrictions had seen casinos and stadiums re-opened to the pubic.
"The question we must ask ourselves is why does the freedom of speech have to be compromised in this situation - why is that what will risk COVID, and nothing else?" Ms Sarang said.
Justice Adamson, who has not yet provided the reasons for her decision, awarded costs against the plaintiff.
The protest has been organised by community group Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties.
Public gatherings are currently restricted to a maximum of 20 people in NSW.
Australian Associated Press