Tense scenes have been captured outside St Mary’s Cathedral as police were forced to separate supporters and protesters ahead of the funeral for controversial high-ranking Catholic George Pell.
Australia’s most senior Catholic will be laid to rest in a service at 11am after he died suddenly last month.
NSW Police on Wednesday predicted there would be clashes after hundreds of protesters were given the green light to hold a “loud, visible and angry” protest outside the funeral.
Officers were called to the cathedral on Wednesday evening after mourners approached child abuse activists who had been tying ribbons to the fence.
Footage captured by 9 News shows supporters of the cardinal allegedly shouting at the silent protesters.
Police officers were seen breaking up the crowd and talking to people following the clash.
There is expected to be a heavy police presence at St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday as thousands of mourners are predicted to turn out in support of Cardinal Pell.
Meanwhile, just across the road, almost 400 people are set to attend a “Pell Go To Hell” protest at Hyde Park North, organised by Community Action for Rainbow Rights.
The activists are protesting Cardinal Pell’s public opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights as well as a child sexual abuse conviction that he was ultimately cleared of.
NSW Police announced it would attempt to stop the protest in the Supreme Court over “safety concerns” on Tuesday.
But the court was told on Wednesday that “alternative arrangements” to use a different route had been made with protest organisers had been made.
Protesters are allowed to march through Hyde Park and will stand at the square outside the cathedral.
Outside court, Acting Assistant Commissioner Martin Fileman told media it was “never the intention” to stop or oppose any protest activity.
He said there was a “risk” of clashes between protesters and Pell supporters, which is why the “buffer zone” will “mitigate the risk”.
CARR organiser Kim Stern told media the action by NSW Police was an attempt to “suppress our democratic right to protest”.
“They tried to stop us from marching next to the church, they wanted us to march in the opposite direction … they claimed it was a security issue, a safety issue,” Mr Stern said.
“I think if we were denied the right to march right up opposite the church … those people would have been very happy if they could have gone in unperturbed by that.”
Mr Stern said it was a massive victory for the activists, who will be able to have their voices heard.
“Now we’re able to march up right opposite the church and have our voices heard, have a loud, visible, angry rally that’s going to be hearing from survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church,” he said.
Cardinal Pell served 406 days of a six-year sentence over child sexual abuse allegations but always maintained his innocence.
The High Court overturned the decision in 2020.
The funeral will be attended by conservative figures from across the country, including leaders of the Catholic Church and Coalition leader Peter Dutton.
NSW MP Damien Tudehope will represent Premier Dominic Perrottet at the funeral due to “prior commitments.
The 81-year-old Cardinal Pell died in Rome in January after complications following a hip replacement surgery.
Story Credit: news.com.au