Australia says mass Black Lives Matter protests 'unreasonable' because of coronavirus

Joe GampContributor, Yahoo News UK
Yahoo News UK
Authorities in Sydney have been awarded a Supreme Court injunction to prevent further mass BLM protests due to fears of the spread of COVID-19. (AP)
Authorities in Sydney have been awarded a Supreme Court injunction to prevent further mass BLM protests due to fears of the spread of COVID-19. (AP)

Authorities in Australia say it is “unreasonable” to hold Black Lives Matter protests due to current coronavirus social distancing rules in the country.

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.

Protesters march and hold up signs at Martin Place during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 2 June in Sydney. (AP)
Protesters march and hold up signs at Martin Place during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 2 June in Sydney. (AP)

“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.”

In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, peaceful demonstrations were held in UK cities such as London on Wednesday and Birmingham and Bristol on Thursday.

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.

Thousands of people gathered in Hyde Park to protest against the abuse of the rights of black people across the world, (Getty Images)
Thousands of people gathered in Hyde Park to protest against the abuse of the rights of black people across the world, (Getty Images)

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.

Some police officers spontaneously took the knee in front of protesters near Downing Street during a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd. (Reuters)
Some police officers spontaneously took the knee in front of protesters near Downing Street during a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd. (Reuters)

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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