The Prime Minister has issued a desperate plea for Australians to consider not attending Black Lives Matter protests planned across the country this weekend due to the ongoing risk of coronavirus.
A number of protests have been slated to take place across Australia from tomorrow, in solidarity of American man George Floyd who died at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis.
Scott Morrison said while he respects people’s ability to express themselves and engage in protest activity, now is not the time to be doing so.
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“Our message is very clear, that the health risks of gathering in such large numbers and the risks of people coming into close proximity are real and Australians have worked incredibly hard in recent months and have undergone great sacrifices to protect the health of the most vulnerable and that does include our Indigenous communities,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.
“One of our greatest fears at the start of this COVID crisis, premiers, myself, our cabinet at a federal level, has been our concern for the potential impact on Indigenous communities of COVID-19.
“Not just remote communities, but metropolitan communities as well.”
The Prime Minister agreed that it is important people have the right to protest, but he says that with those liberties, comes great responsibility for individuals.
“The health advice is very clear, that it’s not a good idea to go,” Mr Morrison said.
“Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments, rather than putting your own health at risk, the health of others at risk, the great gains we have been able to make as a country in recent months.
“And let’s not forget the terrible economic consequences of that as well, let’s not put that at risk, let’s exercise our liberties responsibly this weekend and encourage people not to attend for those reasons and those reasons only.”
The PM said those who continued to protest this weekend would be rubbing salt into the wounds of those Australians who “couldn’t attend the funeral of a family member or couldn’t see a loved one in a nursing home or a veteran who couldn’t remember their fallen colleagues by attending a war memorial service on Anzac Day”.
“We all found a way on Anzac Day to thank those who gave us our liberty and not gather in large numbers,” he said.
“And we stood on the end of our driveways and we held up a light on that dawn in our windows or our balconies and we found a way to celebrate those who gave us our liberty.
“Let’s not misuse that liberty,” Mr Morrison said.
“Let’s respect it. Let’s respect other Australians, And let’s say to those who had the absolute agony of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one, let’s thank them by showing responsibility this weekend.”
NSW Police Minister David Elliott echoed the Prime Minister’s concerns.
“Anyone who goes to a protest during a pandemic is certifiably insane, they are nuts,” he told reporters on Friday morning.
“I have been up half the night talking to senior police taking legal advice but as the premier said, there are things in society it’s virtually impossible to stop and the right to political freedom is one of them,” Mr Elliott said.
It has since been confirmed that NSW Police are seeking an injunction in the Supreme Court this afternoon to stop tomorrow’s protest in Sydney from going ahead.
He said they have commenced legal action “on the basis that we don’t believe the protest can be conducted in a safe way”.
“Now, obviously that will take a few hours. We won’t know the answer to that question until later this afternoon.
“Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court application, police will be in force in a coordinated way to ensure the safety of the protesters and to ensure the safety of the general public and, of course, the police”.
In Victoria, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Premier Daniel Andrews also urged Victorians not to protest this weekend over fears of a second wave.
“Clearly a protest breaks the public health directions,” Mr Sutton said.
“There is a risk that all the gains that have been made are put at risks by large gatherings… it takes a single individual who is infectious. Now is not the time”.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk encouraged protesters to rather show their support on social media from home.
“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 admitted.
“If you do go, we are asking people to be very mindful of social distancing and staying in family groups,” the Premier said.