A man has been charged with assault following a politically motivated incident at Forestville RSL Club.

The incident occurred at a ‘Politics in the Pub’ event on Friday evening (22 April) organised by Mackellar MP Jason Falinski with Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves. The event was billed as an opportunity for community members to meet the incumbent Liberal MP for Mackellar, Jason Falinski, along with the aspirant for Warringah, Katherine Deves.

According to multiple people who were inside the venue, it was a low-key affair and ‘underwhelming’ according to at least one participant. They had expected some kind of formal presentation but instead Mr Falinski and Ms Deves mingled with people and spoke to them directly.

Attending media were asked to leave the venue and wait outside by organisers when it became apparent that some of the attendees were volunteers for the Independent campaigns of Dr Sophie Scamps (Mackellar) and Zali Steggall OAM (Warringah) who had held a campaign event earlier in the day at Forestville.

One of the attendees was a man who claimed to be a ‘campaign worker’ for Dr Scamps but is understood to be a volunteer and not hold a formal position with her campaign.

As media gathered near the entrance to Forestville RSL, the man also made his way to the entrance and was described by a witness to be ‘lurking’ and ‘behaving strangely’. The witness, who does not wish to have their identity revealed publicly, said the man was also observed to be arguing with members of the media before the arrival of Ms Deves.

According to the witness, as Ms Deves arrived and made a brief statement to the media before entering the venue, the man became agitated and ‘lunged’ toward her. Two of Ms Deves’ companions intercepted the man however, and it is understood a scuffle ensued.

NSW Police have confirmed the man has been charged with assault following the incident at Forestville RSL and will appear in court.

“About 6.00pm on Friday, 22 April 2022, officers from Northern Beaches Police Area Command were called to the premises at Melwood Avenue, following reports a volunteer at a private function within the venue was allegedly pushed by a man in the front reception area. The man was escorted from the premises.

“Following an investigation by officers from Northern Beaches Police, a 67-year-old man was issued a Court Attendance Notice for the offence of common assault and will appear at Manly Local Court on 25 May 2022,” said the NSW Police spokesperson.

A spokesperson for Dr Scamps declined to comment about the incident or the man’s connection to her campaign but it is understood the man’s status as a volunteer has subsequently been terminated. Following a recent report of vandalism at Mackellar MP Jason Falinski’s Narrabeen office, Dr Scamps condemned such acts and said all volunteers are expected to adhere to a code of conduct.

“My campaign is focused on a positive vision for Mackellar and every volunteer signs a code of conduct to act in a positive and respectful manner throughout the campaign,” said Dr Scamps at the time.

The incident appears to have affected Ms Deves, who was described by one attendee inside the venue as ‘quiet’. Ms Deves campaign has become embroiled in a national controversy over her stance on transgender athletes competing in women’s sport.

Ms Deves has apologised for the insensitivity of comments she has made on social media in the past. Warringah MP Zali Steggall said Ms Deves’ views were ‘offensive’ and called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to dis-endorse her.

Zali Steggall

Zali Steggall

“The fact that she deleted her previous social media accounts shows that she knew just how toxic, ill-informed and offensive her comments and views were. Her appalling and divisive comments were well known before the Prime Minister selected her, which begs the question – what did he already know? He either knew her views and selected her anyway, or he wasn’t properly informed and made a flawed decision. It’s either deliberately offensive or a sign of incompetence.

“Her personal selection as the Liberal candidate is a sad reflection on the moral compass of the Prime Minister. He made an appalling captain’s call and now should correct it by demonstrating some integrity and sacking her as a candidate. The division she is creating and the hatred she is perpetrating is not consistent with the Warringah I know – our community is a caring, tolerant, inclusive place,” said Ms Steggall.

The political motivation of the alleged assault on Friday night is a concerning development in the Northern Beaches. In 2019, a volunteer putting up election material was attacked.

It is understood Ms Deves has been warned of credible threats to her safety by law enforcement agencies, which has impaired her ability to schedule and attend events in public. Political violence has been in the headlines recently, following the sentencing of the man who killed UK MP Sir David Amess in 2021 when he was meeting with constituents.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Zali Steggall OAM MP, supplied.

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