Sydney Black Lives Matter Rally In Solidarity With U.S. Protests Over Death Of George Floyd
Sydney Black Lives Matter Rally In Solidarity With U.S. Protests Over Death Of George Floyd

Premier’s warning to Black Lives Matter protesters

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Queenslanders planning on protesting at Black Lives Matter rallies tomorrow to think about doing so from home.

Thousands of people are expected to gather in Brisbane's King George Square on Saturday despite restrictions only allowing up to 20 people in public spaces.

Organised by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, more than 7000 people have responded 'going' on the Black Lives Matter - Stop Black Deaths In Custody Meanjin Facebook page, though it remained unclear last night as to whether approval has been granted for the event.

It is understood approval for the protest is a matter for the police rather than the Brisbane City Council.

Earlier today Prime Minister Scott Morrison's urged protestors to avoid rallies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Palaszczuk said she agreed with Mr Morrison in the sense that a lot of people couldn't commemorate Anzac Day.

"We are living in a different world at the moment and I would hope that people respect the health advice, however there will be people who will turn out," she said.

"We know this because people have been speaking with police and police are speaking with some of the organisers."

In NSW, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has confirmed he will apply to the Supreme Court to stop Sydney protests from going ahead tomorrow in a bid to make sure social distancing remains in force.

But Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said the police response to the Black Lives Matter rally locallly would be "scalable".

"We don't believe that this is necessarily in its own right, an event that requires a massive overt police presence, we're there to walk with, support and protect those people," he said.

"We're not expecting (violence), the engagement with the relevant people so far has been very promising. But there's emotion that's built in the sentiment of the issues that are being protested against.

"Contingencies have been put in place to enable appropriate action to be taken in the event that some persons may choose to use the cover of this legitimate issue and peaceful protest to pose a risk to the safety of individuals or the destruction of property."

The planned route of the Brisbane CBD march is still unknown and no formal notice of intent to protest has been received from rally organisers.

However this did not prevent a protest from going ahead. and police have been liasing with organisers.

Mr Codd said police would prefer the protest did not occur tomorrow but realising that was unlikely had worked with the rally organisers on how best to facilitate it.

"It just isn't practical ... to suggest that we're going to go through and start issuing offence notices to thousands of people," he said.

Ms Palaszczuk said people could show support through social media instead.

"If you do go, we are asking people to be very mindful of social distancing and staying in family groups," she said.

"I ask people to please be respectful, we've seen what has been happening in other countries around the world.

"In Queensland we have worked very proactively towards reconciliation.

"We have acknowledged the stolen wages and we have fixed some of the injustices in the past."

Asked whether protesters who gather in large groups should be fined, in light of strict COVID-19 restrictions, the Premier said it would be a matter for police.

"But we do have clear health advice that at the moment we are in a world pandemic, we have zero cases in Queensland (today), we want to keep it at zero cases in Queensland," she said.

A protestor is seen during the candlelight vigil to protest against the deaths in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Picture: Darren England
A protestor is seen during the candlelight vigil to protest against the deaths in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Picture: Darren England

The organisers of Brisbane rally were last night urging members to contact Brisbane's Lord Mayor via email.

"Maintaining safe distancing is really important for this Saturday, which means we'll need a large PA system so that everyone can hear," Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance wrote.

"But Brisbane City Council doesn't want to provide 'protesters' with access to 240V power points in King George Square."

More than 100 people had commented on the post, saying an email had been sent.

The group had also urged attendees to wear face masks and bring hand sanitiser.

Greens MP for Maiwar Michael Berkman said he would be in attendance.

On a Facebook post on his page, he said the law was quite unclear as to whether protests constituted an essential activity and were exempt from the rules.

"The other difficulty is distinguishing between folks going to a public place independently or going to protest the same issue," he wrote on Facebook.

He said the event organisers had applied for a permit with the police.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman said police had been organising logistics all week, if the event were to go ahead, and would make further comment on the matter in a press conference today.

 

Brisbane protests in 2004. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Brisbane protests in 2004. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

 

"I'm also seeking some more advice from the government as an MP on what activities are permitted and how folks can best keep safe," Mr Berkman said.

"The health evidence also indicates that chances of contraction are very low outdoors, but the bottom line is that if you're sick or vulnerable you should absolutely stay home, and instead consider showing solidarity and support by donating to First Nations families who've experienced a death in custody, and elevating First Nations voices."

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance were contacted for comment, however did not wish to speak about social distancing or the size of the gathering.

Meanwhile, in New South Wales, Premier Gladys Berejiklian made special approvals for a Sydney protest, but warned attendees should maintain social distancing.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews did not have the same belief, urging residents to stay home.

Originally published as Premier's warning to Black Lives Matter protesters