ACT Policing won’t target social distancing requirements for protestors

Dominic Giannini 4 June 2020 48
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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48 Responses to ACT Policing won’t target social distancing requirements for protestors
Coco_Black Coco_Black 5:16 pm 11 Jun 20

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.

Stephen Dixon-Jain Stephen Dixon-Jain 12:20 pm 06 Jun 20

Thanks for the suggestion, Julie. I've just adourned our letter box with the colours of the Aboriginal flag. Stephen

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:32 am 06 Jun 20

People crowded together. Unbelievably irresponsible. There are other ways to make the point, and a more permanent point to remind everyone of the issues. One way, tying (biodegradable) ribbons around trees and posts for instance would be there to remind everyone of the issues long after the protest has passed. The ribbons would be a longer reminder of the issue. But then again, if this unthinking selfishness of the protesters not keeping social distancing causes a second wave of covid-19, we will have something to remember you by, and it will not discriminate.

Tom Allen Tom Allen 9:13 am 06 Jun 20

One for them and one law for the rest

Don Fletcher Don Fletcher 8:28 am 06 Jun 20

This might kick off a 2nd wave of C19 and end more black lives than the protest saves. Stay home!

rsm1105 rsm1105 6:51 am 06 Jun 20

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.

Domenic Fabbo Domenic Fabbo 10:24 pm 05 Jun 20

This is very important, but now is not the right time.....

Patrizia Berti Patrizia Berti 10:18 pm 05 Jun 20

Is it not illegal to assemble atm?

Patrizia Berti Patrizia Berti 10:16 pm 05 Jun 20

Why is that?

Pauly Berger Pauly Berger 9:37 pm 05 Jun 20

What is the Chief Health Officers view? Apparently she thinks it is too dangerous for people to have a beer at a pub or club, but not too dangerous to protest in massive numbers. Fair dinkum Barr, stop hiding behind the protecting the community rubbish and open the bloody pubs and clubs!

    John Elliott John Elliott 10:01 pm 05 Jun 20

    Pauly Berger .. she's another Lefty Loser 😎😎😎

Theresa Rowan Theresa Rowan 9:35 pm 05 Jun 20

I support 'black lives matter' but will stay at home to protect the community from a pandemic second wave.

Kyle J Simpson Kyle J Simpson 8:56 pm 05 Jun 20

Why are people so scared of protests? The flu kills way more people every year.

Lindy Edwards Lindy Edwards 6:44 pm 05 Jun 20

I think you'll find the reasoning is that having police shutdown rallies against police violence is not a very good idea.....and you know they'll be more social distanced than schools

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 5:03 pm 05 Jun 20

Why not?

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons 6:42 pm 05 Jun 20

    Australian's have the right to peaceful assemble, under the Magna Carta regardless of public health directions. The right is further protected by the Australian Constitution under the implied freedom of political communication. Basically if protesters aren't affecting the reputation of others, are not causing harm to national security or are not inciting violence the police can't do anything. .

    SC Cores SC Cores 7:55 pm 05 Jun 20

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons blah blah blah... it’s not about not being able to protest... our generation has never seen the world shut down due to disease... people are concerned about that!🥴

    Patrizia Berti Patrizia Berti 10:22 pm 05 Jun 20

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons do we know they will not spread the virus and put lives at risk?

    Mje Mje Mje Mje 6:26 am 06 Jun 20

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons advertiser Australia has no bill of rights so technically has no freedom of association. How do you imply a freedom?

Kristen Booker Kristen Booker 1:09 pm 05 Jun 20

My view of today's rally was that people were sensibly distancing in an outdoor setting with quite a few wearing masks.

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 1:45 pm 05 Jun 20

    From the photographs, it looks like a large number of people were standing close together and that a large proportion of those people were not wearing masks. Having a few people wearing masks is unlikely to achieve much. The spread of the virus would be limited by most or all people wearing masks and practicing social distancing, not a few people.

    From the perspective of pandemic management, this looks like a clear fail on the part of the organisers. They said they would urge people to wear masks. Many of those participating seem to have ignored this.

    Trevor Coutts Trevor Coutts 1:45 pm 05 Jun 20

    Rainer Busacker all on rock n roll

    Dorsia Darling Dorsia Darling 3:45 pm 05 Jun 20

    Just not true. I was there & can tell you it was very well organised & peaceful, marshalls all around giving out hand sanister - although many brought their own, the majority of people were definitely wearing masks. For most of the March people were able to space out a fair bit & when we gathered for speeches most of the crowd spaced out then.

M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 12:32 pm 05 Jun 20

I think I get the reasoning i.e. it's okay to break the law if it's for a feelgood purpose.

    Steph Brimson Steph Brimson 7:41 pm 05 Jun 20

    M.J. Leonard protest isn’t a feel good purpose, it is literally in the constitution as a persons legal right...

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 8:26 pm 05 Jun 20

    Steph Brimson Could you tell me what section of the Constitution you're referring to? Because I don't see anything in there about being able to break state/territory health laws and regulations for the purpose of a protest.

    Steph Brimson Steph Brimson 8:57 pm 05 Jun 20

    M.J. as Bronwyn referee below: Australian's have the right to peaceful assemble, under the Magna Carta regardless of public health directions. The right is further protected by the Australian Constitution under the implied freedom of political communication. Basically if protesters aren't affecting the reputation of others, are not causing harm to national security or are not inciting violence the police can't do anything. .

George Quarmby George Quarmby 12:17 pm 05 Jun 20

The state governments have made an operational decision not to stop these gatherings in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. The premiers are asking people not to attend given the pandemic is still with us. People who attend are at risk of getting Covid.

    Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 1:26 pm 05 Jun 20

    George Quarmby that has changed!

    Natalie Grey Natalie Grey 5:54 pm 05 Jun 20

    George Quarmby the Premier of Victoria has publicly supported the protest

Elaine Dawn Coffey Elaine Dawn Coffey 12:07 pm 05 Jun 20

How dare you Andrew Barr allowing this to happen

3tables available at the yacht club to sit at yesterday

Today open slather

I do not believe this

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 5:57 pm 05 Jun 20

    Elaine Dawn Coffey he’s looking for votes

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons 6:45 pm 05 Jun 20

    Jorge Gatica I don't think Barr is in a position to change the constitution.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 6:54 pm 05 Jun 20

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons I don’t think you get it

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons 6:55 pm 05 Jun 20

    Jorge Gatica I didn't say I agreed with it, I totally GET it! I'm saying it's not within his power

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 6:57 pm 05 Jun 20

    Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons he’s letting it happen because the protestors are his voters

    Steph Brimson Steph Brimson 7:41 pm 05 Jun 20

    Jorge not exactly how the right to protest section of the constitution works. Protest is perfectly legal, and the CM can’t just make them disappear because they’re his voters.

    Margy Duke Margy Duke 8:39 pm 05 Jun 20

    We Would have done it anyway!...

Robert Harrop Robert Harrop 10:39 am 05 Jun 20

So the lockdown of Canberra was enforced only to show that you can control the masses, but it doesn’t count when your supporters want to protest, the government’s credibility is now worth nothing.

    David Newman David Newman 1:16 pm 05 Jun 20

    Whitney Richardson, maybe it’s that people should take responsibility for their own health? If the police don’t enforce social distancing and the sizes of people grouping together, surely that is the fault of the people, not the police?

    Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 1:24 pm 05 Jun 20

    So much for "The People" taking responsibility for the community. No objection for anyone expressing their view, but do it in a responsible and peacefull way, don't take a chance of starting the second wave of COVIT19

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 3:05 pm 05 Jun 20

    The fact there has been no community transmission in the ACT for 4 weeks, actually means the virus has been eliminated in the ACT. Now of course someone from Sydney could bring it with them, but its a completely different situation right now, compared to the "lockdown" which was nothing like the lockdowns anywhere else in the world as malls, bunnings etc were still open.

    Izaäk Bink Izaäk Bink 9:32 am 06 Jun 20

    Robert Harrop hilarious coming from someone who had this as a legitimate profile picture

Joshua McTackett Joshua McTackett 10:04 am 05 Jun 20

Cool so can we open gyms fully again?

    Amir Sharma Amir Sharma 10:24 am 05 Jun 20

    Joshua McTackett No, just like Barr won't allows Clubs with huge expansive areas to open. But is happy to allow thousands attend a protest.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:45 am 05 Jun 20

    Gyms are open now. I've managed to get my workouts in this week. Sure I've had to book in and clean stuff as I go, but they are open. Also gyms are an ideal place for a virus to spread, because the gym has a lot of surfaces you can touch and spread the virus on and gym goers are nortorius at going to the gym even when they are sick.

    Joshua McTackett Joshua McTackett 10:53 am 05 Jun 20

    Justin Watson not all gyms are open in a way that’s conducive to attend.

    As an example: mine is technically open but is charging 10 dollars pp for an hour of use. It’s a far cry from the 17 per week and being able to go 5/6 times.

    I’ve opted just not to use it due to cost.

    Beyond that, there’s no actual evidence of community transmission through gyms, and no evidence of cases currently in the ACT. Transmission is much more likely through airborne droplets than potentially contaminated surfaces.

    As long as people use gyms sensibly, and if gyms maintain oversight of this, we have an opportunity to help people take better care of their health again

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