Where Are The Black Lives Matter Rallies In Australia And How Do I Protest Safely?

As civil unrest fills the streets of the US, another revolution is taking place in Australia
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Protesters shout slogans and hold up signs in Hyde Park during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 02 June, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. This event was organized to rally against aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia as well as in unity with protests across the United States following the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Protesters shout slogans and hold up signs in Hyde Park during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 02 June, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. This event was organized to rally against aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia as well as in unity with protests across the United States following the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)

As civil unrest fills the streets of the US, another revolution is taking place in Australia.

Since George Floyd, a Black man, died in Minnesota after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, people in Australia have been speaking up.

Aussies have posted black tiles on Instagram, they’ve donated money, they’ve opened conversations with their conservative mates.

Rallies across the country have protested police violence with people mourning not just Floyd but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives lost at the hands of police (David Dungay, Kumanjayi Walker and Tane Chatfield, to name a few).

Authorities in NSW on Friday secured a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the largest rally planned for Sydney on Saturday.

Judge Desmond Fagan said a gathering of thousands was “an unreasonable proposition” given state directives for no more than 10 people to gather.

“It is self-evident that the social distancing measures ... have been the key element in minimising the spread of this disease,” he said, adding that the right to free expression was being “deferred” until a safer time.

Some protesters, however, said they would carry on.

“I never lose my decision to fight for what is true,” rally organiser Raul Bassi said after the court decision.

The Aboriginal Legal Service in Sydney has posted the following guidance for those marching today:

Although there are less than 500 active COVID-19 cases in the country, Australia has yet to eliminate the novel coronavirus and we know Indigenous Australians are in a high risk category when it comes to the virus.

Of course, there’s much more work to be done to address and dismantle systemic racism and protesting is part of that, pandemic or not.

If you wish to protest, below is a list of this weekend’s demonstrations and a few steps you can take to mitigate health consequences as much as possible when you’re protesting, as well as after you have already marched.

Protestors march down Queen Street on June 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Protestors march down Queen Street on June 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Brisbane

Time and date: 1-5pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: King George Square

Sydney

Time and date: 3-5pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: The location has recently been updated to Town Hall. The crowd will march to Bathurst Street South, from there to Castlereagh Street and end at Belmore Park where the vigil will be held.


Cairns

Time and date: 3pm Sunday, June 7

Meeting place: Fogarty Park

Melbourne

Time and place: 2-5pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: Parliament House, Spring St

Adelaide

Time and date: 12-1:30pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: Victoria Square (Tarndanyangga)

Canberra

Time and date: 3pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: Embassy Of The USA

Newcastle

Time and date: 2-5pm Saturday, June 6

Meeting place: Civic Park

Protesters hold up signs in Hyde Park during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 02 June, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)
Protesters hold up signs in Hyde Park during a 'Black Lives Matter' rally on 02 June, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)

How To Protect Yourself If You’re Going Out To Protest

The COVIDSafe App

If you’re in Australia, download the COVIDSafe app. The tech uses Bluetooth to record people who are close to you who also have the tracing app. The two phones exchange IDs which will speed up the manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone who has been infected with the virus.

Wear a face mask or covering

Maintaining at least 1.5 metres between you and anyone not in your household is imperative for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Obviously, that’s not always possible in a protest setting.

Experts do recommend that you wear face masks or face coverings as a way to help lower the potential for spread.

“The majority of folks that I was able to see out this weekend [during US protests] were doing that,” Dr Utibe R Essien, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told HuffPost, adding that people who are infected with COVID-19 (even those who are asymptomatic) can spread the illness through speaking, coughing and sneezing. “Face coverings will help protect both yourself and others.”

Carry hand sanitiser

“Take hand sanitiser to disinfect regularly, especially after touching someone else or surfaces,” Dr Neha Nanda, medical director of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship for Keck Medicine of USC, told HuffPost.

To use it properly, rub the sanitiser all over the palms of both hands, as well as the backs of your hands and in between your fingers. Once the product dries completely, it should be fully effective in getting rid of germs.

Avoid touching your face if you can

Your mouth, nose and eyes are all areas where the virus can enter your system, and you could spread it through contact with your hands.

Be careful about eating

Essien advised “not eating out in the public on a protest trail” as another health precaution.

Consuming something on the go means you’ll have to take off your face covering and likely put your hands near your mouth or face. Make sure you eat before you head out. Additionally, Nanda said to drink plenty of water before you go and be cautious about drinking outside, too. Don’t share food or drinks with others, as that can increase the risk of transmission.

Consider staying home if you feel sick

If you are showing any symptoms, consider staying home to protect others. Keep in mind that a significant portion of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic and that there’s also a chance you may have been exposed to the virus but aren’t showing any signs. Take precautions where appropriate, if you can.

There are many people who can’t protest, including those who are immunocompromised or living with someone else at high risk of getting sick. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to help. Twitter user Mireille Harper wrote a guide on non-optical allyship, which is especially useful in this case:

And this from Melbourne artist Aretha Brown:

What To Do After Protesting

Continue to take health precautions.

Keep taking the steps to protect your health that you would anyway during the pandemic. Washing your hands, especially once you get home, is extremely vital, Essien said.

“Additionally, wear clothes that you can easily remove and wash immediately, and minimise the amount of jewellery, etc to reduce the number of surfaces you need to disinfect once you return home,” Nanda said.

Pay attention to any symptoms that arise.

Monitor your symptoms as best as you can. “If anyone begins experiencing flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms including a cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath, muscle body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhoea, contact your medical provider for a consultation,” Nanda said.

And, if you’re able, take social distancing or self-isolation precautions. “If folks can lay low and have someone else go out and get the groceries, gas or other errands like that while watching symptoms, that would be preferred over going out and about in regular life,” Essien said.

Don’t forget your mental health, either.

While this point isn’t directly related to coronavirus, it’s one worth making and repeating. Trauma, stress and burnout from activism is a very real issue. Mental health and physical health are connected, and people are more likely to get sick if they’re run down.

For people in the Black community especially, “we’re really beyond self-care ― it’s about self-preservation and self-protection,” Hairston told HuffPost.

She added that it’s crucial to log off, not watch the news and set boundaries with other people on what you can and cannot tolerate right now. “You have to step away. You have to recognise what is traumatising, what is stressful, what is anxiety-provoking, what brings depression to you. You have to really know what you can handle,” she said.