Organizers vowed to press ahead with a Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday in Australia’s largest city of Sydney, despite a court ruling it would be an unauthorized gathering in breach of coronavirus protection measures.
The march, arranged to build on momentum from global rallies for racial justice and against police brutality, was called to highlight the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody.
It comes as Australia experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases. The country on Monday reported its highest ever single-day increase in cases after a flare-up of infections in Victoria state.
Neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) state, of which Sydney is the capital, is also battling several virus clusters and authorities have warned people taking part in the rally that they risk arrest.
Organizers on Monday lost a bid in the Court of Appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that NSW Police had the right to prohibit the rally.
Organizers, who expect about 500 people to attend the rally at midday, said they would adhere to social distancing rules. People will be spread out as far as possible in groups of 20 and given hand sanitisers and masks.
“I don’t see why there’s no reason at all why we can’t have a peaceful protest,” Paul Silva, one of the organisers, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television on Tuesday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt made a last ditch plea for people not to attend, asking them to instead use social media platforms or arrange a silent vigil outside their homes.
“Don’t. You could take somebody’s life. It’s as simple as that,” Hunt told Sky News.
Australia has recorded just under 15,000 cases of COVID-19 and 161 deaths as of Monday and authorities have warned more lives would be lost due to the spike in cases.