SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police on Tuesday arrested six people and ordered them to gather after an official ban caused by a coronovirus epidemic after a Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney to disperse about 50 others .
After the police shut down a rally deemed illegal in Sydney, Australia on July 28, 2020, police officers issued citations to protesters. REUTERS / Lauren Elliott
The march was planned to highlight the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, taking momentum from global rallies for racial justice and against police brutality.
Police had said the gathering was unauthorized and in violation of coronovirus prevention measures, a position supported by the court’s decision on Monday as Australia deals with the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Police said they arrested six people before a scheduled start of March in a public park and ordered others to leave the area, saying people were warned enough to stay away.
“In the last 24 hours, we have said time and time again,” Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Willing of New South Wales told reporters in Sydney. “We are in the midst of an epidemic.”
Five of the six arrested were fined $ 1,000 for disobeying a court order. The sixth was fined for using offensive language.
Reuters estimated that around 50 people gathered in the city on a rainy day, a shortfall of 500 people expecting organizers to attend.
Australia reported the highest single-day increase in its cases on Monday after a flare-up of infection in the state of Victoria. Neighboring NSW, of which Sydney is the capital, is also battling several virus groups.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had appealed to people not to attend the rally, urging them to use social media platforms instead or to arrange a silent fast outside their homes.
Australia has recorded around 15,000 cases of COVID-19 and 167 deaths, although officials fear that both will arise.
Reporting by Renu Jose, Colin Pacham, Jill Gralow and James Redmayne; Editing by Jane Wardell