SYDNEY: Thousands of people have gathered in New South Wales for peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies, calling for racial equality and action against Indigenous deaths in custody.
Thousands rallied in Sydney on Sunday and hundreds more demonstrated in Newcastle.
The Newcastle protest proceeded with authorization by the NSW Supreme Court after the NSW Police Force attempted to outlaw the event.
There have been at least 434 Indigenous deaths in custody since a royal commission into the issue ended in 1991.
Not one conviction has been recorded.
“We went through the lawful process, we sat through that process of the coronial inquiry … We listened to that process and we received no justice from that process. This is our process to demand justice, “said rally organizer and Dunghutti man Paul Silva.
Silva is the nephew of David Dungay Jnr, who died in 2015 at Sydney’s Long Bay Prison after repeatedly shouting “I can’t breathe”.
Protesters, many of whom wore masks, were mindful to maintain social distancing. Organizers also handed out hand sanitizer.
The crowd was surrounded by a strong police presence, which included riot and mounted officers.
A 48-year-old man was moved on from The Domain after complaints from protesters about his behavior, NSW Police said.
A 16-year-old boy was removed from Hyde Park after he threw a bottle at a police officer.
NSW Police applied to the state’s Supreme Court to block the Newcastle rally, arguing it would breach the state’s Public Health Order on gatherings, which are limited to 20 people but the court rejected the application on Friday and authorized the event.
On Saturday, Australians took part in Black Lives Matter rallies in Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Cairns and Kempsey.
“Deaths are continuing to happen in Australia. Dave Dungay Jnr said: ‘I can’t breathe’ before dying in custody,” Brisbane rally organizer Bogaine Spearim told the crowd.
“We will continue to hit the streets and disrupt until there is justice.”
Earlier this week, Indigenous leaders and governments agreed on 16 new Closing the Gap targets to improve the health, education and job prospects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While the exact details of the targets won’t be released until after a national cabinet meeting on 10 July, it’s understood one is aimed at lowering the disproportionate rates at which Indigenous people are jailed in Australia.