Australian police on Tuesday detained six people and ordered about 50 others to dissipate after they gathered in Sydney for a Black Lives Matter protest despite an official ban because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The protest was planned to highlight the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, building on momentum from global demonstrations for racial justice and against police brutality.
Police had said the gathering was disallowed and in breach of coronavirus prevention measures, a position backed by a court ruling on Monday, as Australia tackles a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Police said they detained six people before the scheduled start of the protest in a public park and imposed others to leave the area, saying people had been given enough warning to stay away.
In Sydney, New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Willing told reporters, “Over the last 24 hours, we have said time and time again, do not turn up. We are in the middle of a pandemic.”
In Sydney Australia, a BLM protest.
1. Court declared protest illegal.
2. People gather.
3. Police arrest ringleaders before march starts.
4. Police tell people to go home or get $1000 fine.
5. Everyone goes home.
No guns, no batons.
— Lou-Smorrels (@LouSmorrels) July 28, 2020
Of the six people jailed, five were each fined A$1,000 for defying the court order disallowing the gathering. The sixth was charged for using offensive language.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had begged people not to attend the rally, urging them to instead use social media platforms or arrange a silent vigil outside their homes.