Australians protest en masse against national day despite COVID-19 rules

Sydney, Australia, Jan 26 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Australians took to the streets in the country’s major cities on Tuesday despite COVID-19 social distancing rules to protest the celebration of the country’s national day, a date which aborigines view as Invasion Day.

Every Jan. 26, Australia commemorates the arrival in 1788 of the first British fleet to the country, an event also seen by indigenous Australians, who had occupied mainland Australia for 65,000 years, as the beginning of discrimination against them.

In Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, thousands of people gathered in a park in the heart of the city despite a ban on public gatherings with more than 500 people.

Five people were arrested but the protest was mostly peaceful and most participants kept a safe distance from each other, police officials told TV channel, 9News.

In Melbourne, dozens of people gathered in front of the parliament for a march without socially distancing despite calls from the police to disperse.

The demonstrators are calling for the abolition of Australia Day, which the organizers of the march described as “rooted in colonial violence and genocide, and not a day to celebrate,” the channel reported.

In an official address in Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that “this land changed forever” on Jan. 26.

“There is no escaping or cancelling that fact, for better or worse, it was the moment where the journey to our modern Australia began,” he added.

Since colonization, the indigenous population has suffered abuse, been deprived of its land and has been systematically discriminated against.

Aboriginals account for three percent of a population of around 25 million, living mostly in poverty in remote areas or in squalid conditions, and with household income barely reaching 62 percent of the national average. EFE-EPA


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