Australias top medical officer says it would be catastrophic if COVID-19 spread to remote indigenous communities, as protesters are urged not to attend Black Lives Matter rallies.
Thousands are expected at protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart on Saturday to show solidarity with the movement and African American George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis.
The Australian protests are also a show of support to the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.
Brendan Murphy says authorities have always feared an outbreak in indigenous communities.
“The risk to loss of life and spread of this virus in some of those remote communities would be catastrophic,” he said on June 5.
“This would be an absolute tragedy if we got that virus into one of our remote communities.”
Huge crowds gathered in Perth, Sydney and Canberra this week to support the movement.
The NSW government initially endorsed the protests but on Friday, the states highest court banned a protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody because it breached coronavirus restrictions.
About 5000 people were expected to rally at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday in honour of George Floyd and Australian man David Dungay Jr, but Supreme Court Justice Des Fagan declined to approve the Stop All Black Deaths in Custody rally as an authorised public assembly.
Before the decision, however, Dungays mother vowed she would march regardless of the ruling.
Justice Fagan said he appreciated the rallys central issue and that it was designed to be concurrent with similar events in other countries.
“I dont diminish the importance of the issues and no one would deny them in normal circumstances,” he said.
“No one denies them that but were talking about a situation of a health crisis.”
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told the court a protest of 10,000 could “increase the risk of community-acquired infections and the seeding of clusters”.
In a statement on Friday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said police would have a strong presence in Sydneys CBD on Saturday to enforce the decision.
Murphy said that while people had the right to protest, mass gatherings were dangerous in the midst of a pandemic.
One infectious person was able to pass on the virus to as many as 50 others, he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also urged Australians not to attend protests.
“Australians have worked incredibly hard in recent months and have undergone great sacrifices to protect the health of the most vulnerable, and that does include our indigenous communities,” Morrison.
He noted some Australians had not been able to attend funerals for loved ones and others commemorated Anzac Day by standing on their driveways rather than attending ceremonies.
Indigenous academic Marcia Langton said AborigRead More – Source