Australia

Sydney's ‘Invasion Day’ rally organisers push ahead with plans despite coronavirus restrictions

Protesters during the 2020 'Invasion Day' rally in Sydney Source: AAP

Organisers say they will have COVID safety plans, and are calling for an end to the restrictions on protests in NSW given crowds have been gathering in recent weeks at shopping centres, beaches and at the SCG cricket Test.

Indigenous organisers of a large ‘Invasion Day’ rally scheduled for 26 January in Sydney are pushing ahead with the event despite coronavirus restrictions, saying the oppression facing First Nations communities “is too urgent not to proceed with a mass protest demanding change”.

Under NSW government rules, protests are currently restricted to 500 people.

The rally is calling "for 'Australia Day' to be abolished entirely", greater sovereignty for First Nations people rather than constitutional recognition, and an end to Indigenous deaths in custody, the forced removal of children and the destruction of sacred land and the climate.

Organisers say they will have COVID safety plans - including mandating masks and social distancing – and want an end to the restrictions on protests in NSW, given large crowds have been gathering in recent weeks at shopping centres, beaches and at the SCG cricket Test.

“Unlike COVID, the virus of colonial racism that came to these lands in 1788 cannot be defeated by self-isolation or quarantine. We need to come together and fight back," organiser and Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman Elizabeth Jarrett said.

“Throughout the pandemic, our people are still being locked up and killed and our children are being taken at ever increasing rates. We will not stop until our sovereignty is recognised and we see justice”.

Tameeka Tigha, a climate campaigner and Gomeroi, Dunghutti and Biripi woman, said: “There is no Planet B and there is no climate justice without acknowledging First Nations sovereignty.”

Large-scale protests aimed at drawing attention to Indigenous deaths in custody were held across the country last year during Australia’s first wave of COVID-19, though very few infections were linked to any of them.

NSW Police attempted to have several Sydney rallies stopped through the court system.

There have been at least 437 Indigenous deaths in custody since a royal commission into the issue ended in 1991. Not one conviction has been recorded.

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