Thousands of people across Australia attended Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday wearing masks and practicing social distancing amid warnings from state leaders to call off the events on fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
The rallies, dominated by a heavy police presence, were mostly peaceful. Protesters marched on the streets or gathered at public parks carrying posters that said “No Justice, No Peace” and “Sorry For The Inconvenience, We Are Trying To Change The World.”
“There have been people like my dad and Aunty Mingelly who have been pushing for change since they were my age – you know that was 50 years ago,” Jacinta Taylor, an organizer of the protest in Perth, told the rally.
“I don’t want to be having to be 80 years old and pushing for this kind of change for my children and my children’s children.”
Anti-racism protests were triggered around the world following the death late last month of African American George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Perth saw the largest gathering of all major Australian cities on Saturday, despite pleas from the premier of Western Australia (WA) state, Mark McGowan, to cancel the event until the coronavirus pandemic was over.
A Black Lives Matter protester in Melbourne had tested positive for the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, this week, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned the mass gatherings were putting at risk the nation’s recovery.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook this week advised large gatherings were not advisable, although his wife, an indigenous woman, said she would join the rally.
Cook said in a statement his wife was a private citizen and made her own personal choices. “That’s one of the many reasons why I love her,” he said. “I have great sympathy for the cause of ensuring Aboriginal people and minorities are protected from racism.”
Protesters also gathered in small numbers in Melbourne and Sydney, calling for freedom for refugees stuck in indefinite detention.