Sydney, Australia, Jul 28 (efe-epa).- Sydney police shut down a Black Lives Matter march on Tuesday and arrested six people at the rally, which a court had prohibited due to fear of COVID-19 transmission.
New South Wales state police said in a statement Tuesday that their intention had been “to ensure the safety of the community” in Sydney, a city where dozens of local transmissions of COVID-19 have been detected since earlier this month.
Some 15,000 people had indicated on Facebook that they would attend the rally, which was prohibited Sunday by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the state’s highest judicial body, and the ruling of which was upheld on Monday by the Court of Appeals.
While the rally was not banned, it left participants exposed to potential criminal punishment, including for breaching public health orders.
Before its planned start at midday, police officers dispersed protesters in The Domain park so they could not march through the streets as they had planned, according to the national broadcaster ABC.
One of those arrested was protest co-organizer Paddy Gibson, who was fined AU$1,000 ($712) for violating public health orders imposed to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.
Organizers were demanding justice for the death of 26-year-old Aboriginal man David Dungay, who died in 2015 in a Sydney prison hospital after he was held down by guards while gasping “I can’t breathe.”
The same words were spoken by Black American George Floyd in May before he died at the hands of a White police officer in Minneapolis, United States, which reactivated a wave of racial justice protests propelled by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since 1991, according to official figures, 434 Aborigines have died while being arrested or in prisons of Australia, a country that for decades has discriminated against indigenous people and violated their rights with repressive laws.
Since June, several massive Black Lives Matter protests have been called, bringing together up to 30,000 people in various parts of the country, which since the beginning of the pandemic has accumulated 15,200 cases of COVID-19, including 167 deaths.
Australia put the city of Melbourne into a second lockdown period from July 9 due to a new outbreak of COVID-19, which has caused more than 5,000 infections since the beginning of the month.
New South Wales authorities are also battling several outbreaks on Sydney, although they say their contact tracking system is effective. EFE-EPA