Australian Man Fined $5,000 for Drinking Coffee in Public Without a Mask

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A sign for Starbucks is seen on a street in New York City, on May 11, 2018. Northern Territory of Australia man, Hayden Williams, was arrested by police for drinking coffee in public on the way back to his car amid a lockdown.
A sign for Starbucks is seen on a street in New York City, on May 11, 2018. Northern Territory of Australia man, Hayden Williams, was arrested by police for drinking coffee in public on the way back to his car amid a lockdown. (Image: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

An Australian man in the Northern Territory state was shadowed and harassed by police for drinking coffee in public before being arrested and fined AU$5,056 (US$3,783), a video of the incident reveals. 

Hayden Williams began recording himself drinking a cup of coffee while walking to his car in the Northern Territory town of Alice Springs on June 2 after noticing he was being shadowed by three police officers. The officers appeared to be following him because he was not wearing a face mask in public.  

In the video, as Williams was followed, police demanded he put on a face mask. He declined and began asking the officers for their names and badge number. One of the officers, a young Caucasian woman, took exception and began to challenge Williams saying, “I don’t have to give you my name.” Williams replied, “You’re a peace officer, you’re a servant of the people. I’m not being rude here. I’m not risking anything…”

The female officer interrupted Williams, “I need you to listen to me. Okay so there’s a pandemic going on. This is a very vulnerable community. There’s lots of sick people,” before demanding that Williams identify himself. 

Williams believed he was not committing a crime and asserted he did not have to wear a mask because he was drinking a coffee and attempted to walk away. The trio followed him and the woman told him if he didn’t provide his name and wear a mask he would be arrested. When Williams asked “You’re threatening me?” he was immediately captured by police. 

A second video provided by an onlooker shows that Williams had his coffee knocked to the ground before being thrown in the back of a police pickup truck with a canopy.

In an interview with Australian independent reporter Avi Yemeni via Canada’s Rebel News, Williams said “they drove me to the watchhouse and locked me up,” but he was only detained for 20 to 25 minutes before being released. Williams was given a business card-style “Infringement Notice” branded with the Northern Territory Police logo issuing him a $5,056 fine. 

The card says the fine will be automatically applied to his postal address and he has 28 days to pay. 

Williams says he’s a freelance artist whose income has been disrupted because of Australia’s string of lockdowns and he cannot afford to pay. 

Rebel News said they’ve undertaken to help Williams battle the charges through their Fight the Fines project. Yemeni interviewed solicitor Cameron Shamsabad who commented on the case after reviewing the evidence, “The implication is that it’s not a reasonable excuse for you to be drinking anything outside at the moment under these lockdown conditions, even if you’re in the course of essential exercise or shopping or anything like that.”

“If that’s the implication it means that you couldn’t drink water, you can’t drink coffee, you can’t drink juice, you can’t drink anything else. The police could come and just snatch you off the street for that purpose, give you a fine, and then direct you to go straight back home.”

Shamsabad continued, “The absurdity of that is obviously inherent. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense. I can’t see any scientific reason why they would be doing that, and legally it’s just a waste of police resources. Why are they snatching people who are drinking coffees, who are actually doing a service to the community by going out and supporting their local businesses at a time of lockdown? Why would the police be going and snatching those people? It’s just another absurdity of lockdown.”

On June 30, the Northern Territory government put the town of Alice Springs on 72 hour lockdown after a granite miner registered a positive PCR test for the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and four of his roomates also registered positive PCR tests.

Northern Territory Chief Minister for Health Michael Gunner dramatically told reporters at a July 2 press conference announcing an end to the lockdown, “I don’t think we can underestimate how close the Territory came to the edge of the cliff this past week,” according to news.com.au.

Gunner repeatedly boasted they had “trapped the virus” by locking down whole populations over a small batch of positive PCR tests.

According to the Northern Territory government’s website, restrictions will remain in place until July 9. Notably, all citizens must register for contact tracing wherever they go, “All businesses and places where customers and clients visit need to use a check-in system, like The Territory Check-In App. Pen and paper will still be permitted.”

“You will be required to check in everywhere you go, no matter how long you spend at that location.”

The state has a population of approximately 245,000 people. Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, it has registered a total of 186 positive PCR tests and suffered zero fatalities according to government data.

In May, Australia’s federal government led by Scott Morrison announced it would be undertaking a review of a controversial 99-year lease of a Northern Territory strategic asset in the Port of Darwin to a Shandong Landbridge Group, which is owned by Chinese billionaire Ye Cheng, a man with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The lease was granted under the previous Malcolm Turnbull administration. 

In April, the Morrison administration also stepped in to cancel Belt and Road Initiative agreements between the CCP and the state of Victoria led by Dan Andrews. Since the pandemic began, the Andrews administration was one of the most heavy-handed governments in the world at embracing the model Beijing used in Wuhan to allegedly stop the spread of Wuhan Pneumonia during the earliest stages of the pandemic.

In early March, Andrews fell down the stairs at his home while preparing for work and suffered multiple broken ribs and a broken vertebrae. His injuries required surgery and left the Premier out of commission for 111 days.