News Coronavirus Black Lives Matter march organisers fined for virus breaches
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Black Lives Matter march organisers fined for virus breaches

blm march organisers fined
An estimated 10,000 people attended the BLM rally in Melbourne last Saturday.
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Police have fined three of the organisers of Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter protest for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Each person received a $1652 infringement notice after a post-event investigation by Victoria Police, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Police said no other fines would be issued in relation to the rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday, which was calling for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

The rally was organised in defiance of Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions, which only allow gatherings of up to 20 people.

It comes after a health authorities said a man who tested positive to coronavirus after attending the protest in Melbourne last weekend had not downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

The man in his 30s is not thought to have acquired the virus at the protest and was not showing symptoms on the day, but may have been infectious at the demonstration.

On Friday, deputy chief health officer Anneliese van Diemen said the man, who was wearing a mask at the rally, had not downloaded the coronavirus tracing app.

“It would have been useful, certainly, and we remain encouraging of people to download the app,” she said.

“It appears that most of the protesters were wearing masks. It reduces the risk but it does not negate the risk.”

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state had recorded four new COVID-19 infections, taking its total to 1703.

One case was detected through routine testing, two were found in returned travellers in hotel quarantine, and one case was under investigation.

With just 49 people classed as currently having the virus, Dr van Diemen said Victoria now had its “lowest-ever number of active cases”.

None of the new infections are believed to be linked to the Black Lives Matter protester.

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Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said none of Friday’s cases were related to the protester’s positive test. Photo: AAP

‘Incredibly irresponsible’ to have protests, Minister says

Naming the protester would be a breach of the Health Records Act, so the infected man is unlikely to receive any penalty.

Ms Mikakos said penalising the man could discourage others who were at the protest from coming forward to be tested.

The government has faced criticism for not banning the protest, but Ms Mikakos said “we made very clear that there was a public health risk for people attending any mass gathering event”.

Dr van Diemen said any increase in cases resulting from the protest could become obvious any time from now into next week.

“We will remain absolutely vigilant,” she said.

The infected protester had been “very cooperative” with health authorities and “very forthcoming” with information, Dr van Diemen said.

“At this point, the close contacts have been identified and are undertaking quarantine. All of them will undergo testing at the end of their quarantine.”

Under official advice, other people who attended the protest are not asked to self-isolate for 14 days unless they develop symptoms.

Dr van Diemen said the likelihood of the man spreading the virus was “probably low risk” but warned it was early days and that could change.

Organisers of a planned weekend protest supporting refugees have agreed to break up into eight separate demonstrations, which Dr van Diemen said was a “more responsible way forward”.

“But we would still advise not to have gatherings outside of the current limits,” she said.

The smaller demonstrations were organised following a Supreme Court decision in NSW to prohibit a refugee rights protest in Sydney planned for this weekend.

Ms Mikakos said she was “incredibly disappointed” protests had gone ahead despite “all our warnings about the risky nature” of large demonstrations.

“Anyone who might be considering having a protest on any issue, whether it’s this weekend or the coming weeks, whilst these legal directions remain in place, I would say to those event and protest organisers, it’s incredibly irresponsible to be having a protest at this time,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has called for people to be charged over the protests, said medical advice had not changed.

“This is not about the issues those people are raising, this is about people’s health and welfare and I would urge Australians to respect that,” he said.

Protest organiser says fewer precautions taken at supermarkets

Melbourne Black Lives Matter protest organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams earlier told ABC News Breakfast she would not feel responsible if the rallies resulted in a second wave.

“I think that there’s going to be a second wave anyway, that has been the advice that has been given from the government and from the health professionals,” she said.

“There was more precaution taken at our rallies, than there is in the public. I know when I go to the supermarket people aren’t standing 1.5 meters away from me and aren’t wearing a mask and [using] hand sanitiser regularly.”

Ms Onus-Williams, who is a member of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, said to “assume” the second wave would result from the protest was “very inappropriate”.

She also questioned why “people [can] gather for football, but we can’t gather to save lives”.

“I think that every single time that Aboriginal people take the streets, whether it’s invasion day or black deaths in custody, there’s an issue.

“We need to actually talk about what’s happening in this country, because we are a very highly policed community and the police continue to place us violently, whether there is a pandemic or not.”

Ms Onus-Williams said the Black Lives Matter movement was “a global issue” and called on the government to supply personal protective equipment for protesters.

“I think that the government needs to put in harm minimisation approaches because this is a big issue than Australia.”