Thousands gather for Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia

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Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have gone ahead in parts of Australia, against the advice of government and health authorities but on a significantly smaller scale than last weekend, when tens of thousands rallied in cities on the east coast.

The biggest demonstration was in Perth, the Western Australia state capital, where the Australian Broadcasting Corp estimated 5,000 people gathered to honour George Floyd and remember indigenous Australian people who died in custody.

Mr Floyd, a black man, died in handcuffs on May 25 in Minneapolis while a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck. His death has prompted weeks of protests in the US and around the world.

The threat of rain and and lack of a city council permit meant the Perth rally did not reach the expected 8,000-15,000 people organisers had hoped would attend.

A protester in Sydney
Protests were held against the advice of government and health authorities (Rick Rycroft/AP)

“They told us not to come. They told us to be silent. We will not be silent,” she said.

Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan had urged organisers to postpone the event, saying: “This is about trying to save people’s lives.”

A man who attended the rally in Melbourne last weekend later tested positive for the coronavirus, heightening concerns about a potential second wave in Australia just as the federal and state governments are easing restrictions.

Western Australia Covid-19 regulations prohibit crowds of more than 300, although police were not enforcing social distancing fines and organisers offered face masks and hand sanitiser to protesters on Saturday.

Police in Sydney
Police in Sydney (Rick Rycroft/AP)

Police in the North Territory issued a statement saying the event was peaceful “and allowed community members to express their views in a safe environment”.

Sharna Alley, one of the Darwin protest organisers, told the crowd: “We’re tired of the injustices. We’re tired of the brutality against our people in so-called protective custody. We really want to know, when will it stop.”

Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders comprise 2% of Australia’s adult population but 27% of the prison population.

They are also the most disadvantaged ethnic minority in the country and have higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poorer overall health, as well as shorter life expectancy and lower levels of education and employment than other Australians.

Refugee activists held small rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to protest against the detention of asylum seekers, despite warnings from police saying anyone attending the Sydney protest risked being fined and arrested.

An estimated 70 protesters were outnumbered by police at Sydney’s Town Hall.

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