By Josh Hanrahan and Zoe Zaczek
A cosmetic nurse whose screaming son was pulled from her arms as police arrested her for protesting about the coronavirus lockdown claims ‘he wanted to be there’.
Renee Altakrity had her four-year-old son pulled from her arms by police during the ‘Exercise My Rights’ protest outside New South Wales parliament house on Saturday.
Video of the mother-of-three’s arrest soon went viral, while as she sat in the back of a police wagon she posted updates for her fellow protestors on social media.
Mrs Altakrity, 36, was issued a $1000 fine for breaching the strict COVID-19 rules.
The day after the incident she told Daily Mail Australia that despite criticism over her decision to take her son along with her, he had asked to join because he wants skate parks to reopen.
‘The point for me exercising our rights is to stick up for ourselves and have freedom of speech,’ Mrs Altakrity said.
‘My son wanted to come with me. He said: “Mum can I come? I’d love to put a sign up about the fact that I want to go back to the skate parks and not feel scared”.
‘I don’t keep my kids in the shadows… my children are very aware of what is going on and I think it is very important our children know how to handle themselves and have a freedom of speech, even at four.
‘My children are very opinionated, they probably get that from me, but he had every right to be there.’
When asked exactly what she was protesting over, the beautician said she believed Prime Minister Scott Morrison had taken a ‘Gestapo’ approach to running Australia.
Despite admitting she is ‘not a scientist or doctor’, Mrs Altakrity said she believed a more targeted quarantine would have been a better option.
‘I would’ve talked about possibly quarantining the sick, not the healthy,’ she said.
‘There is no reason healthy people shouldn’t be allowed to go about their lives. That’s all I’ve got to say about it.
‘I don’t think its been handled with common sense.’
Dozens of people gathered outside parliament house on Macquarie Street in Sydney from midday on Saturday as part of the ‘Exercise My Rights’ protest.
In addition to the COVID-19 restrictions, among their other grievances was the need for NRL players and those visiting aged care homes to have had the flu vaccination.
Mrs Altakrity admitted she was against vaccinations, but said that was not the main reason she was protesting.
At Saturday’s protest she had a yellow sign hung around her neck that read: ‘If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any. Magna Carta.’
When police officers approached her about 3.50pm she insisted she was not doing anything wrong, despite the government’s social distancing regulations.
Australians can leave their homes for exercise or essential reasons but must keep a 1.5 metre distance from others.
While these restrictions are expected to be eased in the coming weeks, they remain in place across most states and territories.
‘I don’t know how you guys are going home in honour tonight and trying to infringe me with a notice which I don’t consent to because we’re doing nothing wrong,’ Mrs Altakrity told the group of officers.
‘You guys should be here holding the signs with us, defending us. I don’t consent to what you’re doing.’
She said she was not ‘acting in aggression’ and that she did not consent to sharing her name.
She asked if police she was ‘under arrest’ and a female officer explained they were ‘asking for her name’ as they believed she was committing an offence.
Mrs Altakrity then appeared to walk on.
The dangers of not being vaccinated
Immunisation is an effective way of protecting people from harmful, contagious diseases.
Before vaccination campaigns in the 1960s and 70s, diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough killed thousands of children.
Immunisation also protects the whole community, preventing the spread of the disease – known as ‘herd immunity’.
Vaccination can cause a disease to die out altogether – as was the case when smallpox was eradicated in 1980 after a vaccination campaign led by the World Health Organisation.
Vaccination rates are at over 93 per cent for five-year-olds in Australia.
But additional video footage showed the altercation taking a turn for the worst, with police attempting to arrest the woman as her son screamed and cried nearby.
‘Mummy is not going… leave mummy alone,’ he said.
Mrs Altakrity appeared to fight off attempts to put her in the back of a paddy wagon and continued to claim she was not doing anything wrong.
The distressing footage concluded with police pulling the child away from his mum, with one officer seen holding on to the boy as he kicked and screamed.
Inside the police van, Mrs Altakrity posted a video to Instagram calling for help from her fellow protestors.
‘I’m in the back of a paddy wagon. They singled me out,’ she claimed.
‘If someone can please send legal representation. I cannot believe this is happening.
‘This system is absolutely bulls**t. They singled me out. They singled me out… Why? I was just exercising my rights like everybody else.’
The alarming confrontation left viewers divided, with many slamming the mother for bringing her child along with her.
‘Foolish, selfish attention seeking woman. A mother should protect their child far far away from aggravating situations like that during a global pandemic,’ one wrote.
‘She should not expose a vulnerable child to such unnecessary trauma. Her poor innocent boy,’ another wrote.
A NSW Police spokesperson said officers spoke to ‘unauthorised protesters’ about 3.50pm on Saturday.
‘Officers moved the group on after explaining they were not authorised to protest and were also not complying with social distancing regulations,’ the spokesperson said.
‘One woman refused to give officers her details and would not comply with their direction to move on.
‘She was placed under arrest; however, resisted and struggled with officers.
‘The woman was taken to Surry Hills Police Station.’
NSW Police confirmed late on Saturday night that she had been issued with a public infringement notice (PIN) and a subsequent $1000 fine.