4 June 2020

ACT Policing won't target social distancing requirements for protestors

| Dominic Giannini
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BLM protest in the US

Black Lives Matter protestors in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Phil Roeder via Flickr.

ACT Policing has confirmed that it will not be focused on enforcing social distancing and health directions during Black Lives Matter protests in Canberra.

However, officers will attend and monitor the protests that are set to take place at Parliament House and outside the US Embassy on Friday and Saturday respectively, and have been working with the organisers to ensure that they remain peaceful and safe.

“Officers will allow people to peacefully make their point [but] while officers will be lenient and focused on educating the community about health directions, property destruction or other violent acts will not be tolerated,” an ACT Policing spokesperson said.

“Vulnerable members of the community considering attending the protest should ask themselves if participating in a large gathering is safe for them.”

Current health directions in the ACT say people must not organise or attend gatherings of more than 20 people in an outdoor space.

“The ACT Government advises people to follow the Public Health Direction issued by the Chief Health Officer,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.

“People are reminded to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

The protests are in response to the death of George Floyd in the US on 25 May. He died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Riots have broken out all over the US following a video of his death being posted to social media.

Demonstrations have also taken place in Sydney to highlight Indigenous deaths in custody and the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous Australians.

The organisers say that the protest is to show solidarity with the George Floyd protests in America as well as the struggle Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face.

“This has been organised to … protest the institutionalised racism that Indigenous people face here in Australia,” organisers said on Facebook.

Organisers have stressed that measures are being taken to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“It is important to note that we are still living in a pandemic. This is why we will have hand sanitiser and masks if people need them, however we strongly urge you to wear your own mask if you have one,” the Facebook post said.

“We will practice social distancing where possible as well. We felt it was safe to organise this protest as ACT currently has zero cases, and so the COVID risk is much lower than in the weeks before this.

“However, we are committed to reducing risk as much as possible.”

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Irresponsible and selfish. I, too, am passionate about causes dear to MY heart but I am not prepared to risk my health, my family’s health and the health of the community to physically protest in a mass gathering. Your individual RIGHT to protest doesn’t trump your individual RESPONSIBILITY to the community at large – of which you are a part. Shame on you ACT government for allowing the protest to have proceeded. Shame on you, protesters. Choose another time.

I’d agree aboriginal people have suffered institutionally. For example, education funding in NT.

Were the relevant fed and territory govts motivated by racism. I would say, on balance , no.

They suffered from the failings of our bureaucracies.

In my humble view we need to get down to specifics. Because there has been no lack of willingness to spend public funds on indigenous issues.

Chris Adkins9:39 am 05 Jun 20

I don’t know when I have heard anything so stupid. We are either social distancing or we are not. Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter organisations around the world and in Australia is important but there are other ways of making our voices heard without risking further covid 19 infections.

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