After a ban on the protest was overturned minutes before it was about to start, tens of thousands of people were able to march to protest the death of Indigenous people in police custody here in Australia and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter worldwide movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement was set off by George Floyd’s brutal death caused by police officers in Minnesota eleven days ago. In solidarity with this movement against police brutality, rallies were organised in other Australian cities today including Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.
It’s been estimated there were at least 20,000 protesters at the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane rallies, with many other protests organised in other cities and towns.
In Sydney, the NSW Court of Appeal overturned a ban on the protest about 60 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Protesters gathered at Sydney Town Hall in defiance of the ban on the protest, rallying against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.
When the ban on the protest was lifted by the NSW Court of Appeal, it meant the protest was considered legal and protesters were immune from prosecution if they breached public health orders.
Because there were tens of thousands of people attending, they were unable to maintain social distancing during the march but large numbers of police looked on from the sidelines and no arrests were made.
However, a counter-protester was detained by NSW Police.
The protesters chanted: “I can’t breathe.”
At many of the protests around Australia, the crowd has chanted “I can’t breathe” – the phrase uttered by George Floyd when he was being held down but also by Australia’s own 26-year-old Indigenous man, David Dungay Jr, in his final moments.
David Dungay died in 2015 in Long Bay prison hospital in Sydney, after being restrained by five guards because he was refusing to stop eating a packet of biscuits. He was a diabetic and was to be released in three weeks time.
At an inquest into his death in 2019, video footage showed Dungay being restrained by the officers and he can be heard saying: “I can’t breathe,” twelve times.
Dungay’s mother, Leetona Dungay, was at the protest in Sydney and she can be seen here below talking with a police officer.
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, said this is “a win over the system.”
Before the march started, the protester’s gathered on the Town Hall steps and rallied behind speakers from the Indigenous community. Later, Greens MP, David Shoebridge came out and said: “This is one of those moments, you know, when you fight the system and it’s a system that’s been in place against First Nations people for centuries.”
“But sometimes you have those moments when you have a win over the system,” he added.