Mass protests have gathered around the world since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota, US, last month. On Tuesday, demonstrators in Sydney demanded justice for Floyd and the mistreatment of Australia’s aboriginal citizens.
Further protests were due to take place across the country, with Sydney expected to draw crowds of up to 50,000 people marching in support of the BLM movement on Saturday.
But authorities in New South Wales, where Sydney is based, have secured a Supreme Court Injunction to prevent the rally due to social distancing measures which have so far successfully curbed Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said people had the right to express themselves, but should the COVID-19 disease spread at protests, it would be impossible to trace all participants.
“Any mass gathering at this time is a lottery with peoples’ lives,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Granting the injunction to halt the protests, Judge Desmond Fagan said a gathering of thousands was “an unreasonable proposition” as state rules say no more than 10 people are permitted to gather at once.
“It is self-evident that the social distancing measures have been the key element in minimising the spread of this disease,” he said.
He added that the right to free expression was being “deferred” until a safer time.
Police in the state had previously approved the demonstration on the understanding that less than 500 people would attend
But NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters: “The New South Wales government would never, ever give the green light to thousands of people flagrantly disregarding the health orders.”
Protesters at the Hyde Park rally were initially asked to sit two metres apart unless they were in the same household and told to keep their arms stretched out to ensure social distancing when moving around the park.
Most protesters wore masks or gloves and were pictured sitting apart from each other to observe social distancing, as requested by organisers.
The mass demonstration came after campaigners previously protested outside the US embassy in south London and in Trafalgar Square following Floyd's death.
Police officers were seen “taking the knee” in solidarity with protestors.
Campaigners across the UK have highlighted the inequalities in society, especially amongst those who identify as BAME (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled and sickened” to see what happened to Mr Floyd, but urged people to maintain social distancing as they protested.
Police chief constables from across the UK also issued a joint statement, saying they “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified”.
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