Anti-lockouts activist group turned bonafide political party Keep Sydney Open are chucking one of their trademark rallies to demand action on pill-testing, following a string of recent festival deaths.
“We have to put an end to the ignorance of this NSW government! It’s costing lives!” organisers wrote in an Instagram post announcing the move.
The rally is backed by fellow anti-lockout activist group Reclaim The Streets as well as anti-drug dog collective Sniff Off, and will go down on January 19th, kicking off at Sydney’s Town Hall at 4pm and running til 8pm.
“The failed war on drugs has killed our friends, family, and others in our community for decades while politicians and police have wilfully ignored the mounting evidence that ZERO-TOLERANCE ABSTINENCE DOES NOT WORK,” the official Facebook event description for KSO’s rally reads.
“How many more people need to die before they get the message? PILL TESTING SAVES LIVES.”
The statement continues: “…The war on drugs is a war on all of us. Just test the damn pills and end aggressive over-policing.”
KSO’s call to action follows yet another drug-related tragedy at a local music festival just last weekend.
A young man died and two other people were hospitalised after taking an “unknown substance” at the Central Coast’s Lost Paradise Festival, marking the second fatal overdose at a NSW festival in less than a month, after a teen died of an overdose at a Sydney dance music event just a few weeks prior.
Calls for drug policy reform fell on deaf ears after both tragedies, with state Premier Gladys Berejiklian quick to hose down any talk of changing the NSW Government’s mind on pill-testing.
“Unfortunately, we know that pill testing won’t work because it’ll give people a green light to taking substances, which in the end could still kill them,” she said at the time.
Gladys also previously vowed to shut down the Defqon.1 dance festival after two people died and three more were hospitalised in a critical condition following the Sydney event earlier this year.
Blaming the event itself for the tragedy, she also declared that her government would not consider pill-testing as an option to reduce drug casualties at events, regardless of whether or not an expert panel — convened specifically to instruct the government on how to make music festivals safer — told them to, arguing blindly that anyone advocating for pill-testing was “giving the green light to drugs”.
However, her statements have been proven categorically false by ABC Fact Checkers , with RMIT researchers previously demonstrating that the conservative catch-cry that pill-testing leads to more deaths is complete BS.
“There is no evidence that pill-testing results in festival attendees and partygoers taking more drugs and dying as a consequence,” researcher Claudia Long said. “There is evidence to suggest that pill-testing can make some users more likely to dispose of their drugs or take smaller quantities of them.”
While the landmark trial came back with some disturbing details about some of the 83 drugs tested, the upshot of those results was that many of the punters who owned the bad drugs decided to bin them rather than risk their lives, causing many commentators to hail the whole thing a big success.
Now, in a fiery call to arms on Facebook, Keep Sydney Open proclaim:
“It’s time to take action.
Pill testing is about saving lives, but it’s about much more than that. This is about the system of policy-making that effects our everyday life.”
When Gladys and her government forbids an ‘expert’ panel from considering life-saving solutions, it suggests a brazen ignorance that makes us question the very character of politicians in all areas of policy.
We will not allow the NSW Government to get away with this ignorance. We won’t allow another trashing of civil liberties when we have smarter options on the table.
March with us and make the will of the people known.”
For more info on KSO’s rally, you can RSVP to the official Facebook event here.