• Meriki Onus from Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance has reinforced strict COVID-19 guidelines ahead of Saturday's BLM rally. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Event organisers of Melbourne's Stop Black Deaths in Custody Rally have addressed health and safety concerns held by the Victorian government, and despite warnings of fines, the event will take place tomorrow on the steps of Victorian Parliament.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV NEWS
5 Jun 2020 - 6:20 PM  UPDATED 5 Jun 2020 - 6:21 PM

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) has hit back at claims made by the media of the intentions of their Stop Black Deaths in Custody Rally, and health concerns from the Victorian Government.

The Melbourne rally is one of many held in solidarity with Black man George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis Police in the United States over a week ago.

The issue has amplified the voices of families of Aboriginal people who have died in custody in Australia before and since the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

On Friday morning the Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said COVID-19 fines would be issued to protesters if more than 20 people turn up, and fines to the event organisers if they did not cancel the rally after over 19 thousand people clicked 'attending' and a further 24 thousand clicked 'interested' on the Facebook event.

Speaking at an impromptu press conference on Friday afternoon to address the issues raised throughout the day, WAR spokesperson Meriki Onus told reporters that it was vital that the protest go ahead.

"This is a global and historic movement. A product of hundreds of years of systemic racism and policing that the state has contributed to," Ms Onus said.

"Every time we rally, the state and police attempt to stop us by force. Police in South Australia have acknowledged that this must go ahead and are working with organisers to ensure safety of people attending. This is what we're asking. Governments and police are trying to deflect from their failures, and their responsibility." 

The Age spoke to an anonymous 'senior government source', who implied the event organisers would be using tactics designed to provoke use of force responses from police at the rally, including spitting. 

This is something many members of the community took to social media to quickly dispel.

In addressing the health concerns raised by Premier Daniel Andrews regarding the risk of transmission of COVID-19, Ms Onus stressed that the safety of the Aboriginal community was paramount.

"Please wear a mask at tomorrow's protest. Bring hand sanitiser, and use it regularly remain 1.5 metres apart. Do not protest in groups of more than 20, and within your group of 20," she said.

"You have to remain 1.5 metres apart, and ensure there is distance between each group of 20."

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service has been encouraging the community to visit their Fitzroy location, where they have been handing out free masks and sanitiser to keep protesters safe.