Who is Danny Lim? The iconic Sydney character hospitalised after police incident

Sydney activist Danny Lim is seen in Sydney in 2019.

Sydney activist Danny Lim is seen in Sydney in 2019. Photo: AAP

Sydneysiders may not know the name Danny Lim, but if you say “the smiling man with the signs”, they will know who you’re talking about.

Mr Lim is undeniably one of Sydney’s most iconic characters and his signs are legendary. Though they have gotten him into trouble in the past, he has successfully defended his case in court every single time.

On Tuesday, he suffered injuries while police tried to arrest him in Sydney. At the time, he was wearing a sign saying: “SMILE CVN’T! WHY CVN’T?”.

His sign-wearing can be traced back to the early 2000s.

Back in 2009, the Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Lim had protested against corruption outside the Strathfield Council chambers for years. He was then elected to the council.

Today, his signs sometimes encourage people to smile, though sometimes they are overtly political.

Pictured is Danny Lim

Activist Danny Lim is known around Sydney for his signs.

He has referred to politicians as “c–” on his signs, though sometimes his signs urge people to smile and “be kind”.

Not only can he be spotted on the streets of Sydney with his signs, but also on the big screen.

He starred as a storyteller in the film Three Thousand Years of Longing with his dog, Smarty.

Mr Lim was also featured on the cover of Sticky Fingers’ album, Lekkerboy, that was released in 2022.

Pictured is Danny Lim

Danny Lim has gone to court several times over his signs.

What happened to Danny Lim at the QVB?

At around 11am on Tuesday, NSW Police officers asked him to leave the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and Mr Lim reportedly declined to do so.

Police alleged Mr Lim was asked to leave the shopping complex before officers arrived.

“Police will allege the man was subsequently issued with a move-on direction by officers and failed to comply,” a statement from the police said.

“The man’s arrest was discontinued after he struggled with police and sustained an injury to his cheekbone.”

A video of the arrest was shared broadly online. In the video, Mr Lim is heard calling out for help while the police try to handcuff him.

Mr Lim then falls to the ground. Police said in the statement the arrest was reversed when the officers noticed Mr Lim was injured.

Images of Mr Lim in hospital were shared by Chris Murphy, whose law firm represents the activist. He called the arrest “violent” and reiterated the sign Mr Lim was wearing was found to be legal.

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy said at the time of the aborted arrest, Mr Lim was heading home and walking to Town Hall station. He was waiting to talk to a friend at a phone shop.

He added Mr Lim is in a “poor state” and is awaiting a new brain scan. Mr Murphy previously said he had suffered bleeding to the brain.

“The matter has been triaged as a complaint and allocated to an investigator from another command within Central Metropolitan Region,” a NSW Police spokesperson told The New Daily on Wednesday.

Previous arrests and court victories

Mr Lim has been arrested for his signs twice before – once in 2017 and again in 2019.

At the time of the arrest on Tuesday, Mr Lim was wearing the same “SMILE CVN’T! WHY CVN’T?” sign that got him into trouble previously.

Both times, Mr Lim was successful in court.

Magistrate Jacqueline Milledge said in 2019 the law was concerned with what would offend the “hypothetical reasonable person”, not someone who was “thin-skinned (or) easily offended”.

She also said his sign was “provocative and cheeky, but it’s not offensive”.

He also got into trouble with the law in 2015 when he wore a sign taking aim at then-prime minister, Tony Abbott.


The fine he received in that instance was overturned by the District Court.

A petition was started years ago urging NSW Police to leave Mr Lim alone.

Widespread outrage

After the news broke that Mr Lim being hospitalised, people expressed their fury with the actions of the police.

Many expressed their support for Mr Lim, saying he was not only loved but “harmless”.

Thinking of Sydney icon and peaceful activist, Danny Lim today,” one person said on Twitter.

“I always see him around and he brings so much positivity to some very grey days.”

– with AAP

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