News State Victoria News Thousands expected at Victorian Black Lives Matter protest

Thousands expected at Victorian Black Lives Matter protest

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Hundreds turned out for Sydney's Black Lives Matter rally on Tuesday, but organisers expected thousands at Saturday's demonstration. Photo: AAP
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Thousands of protesters are expected to break social distancing rules in Melbourne to stand in solidarity over the death of George Floyd in the US.

A protest has been planned for Parliament House on Saturday afternoon, organised by members of the Aboriginal community.

“We understand it is being organised by members of the Aboriginal community in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the recent events in the USA following the tragic death and alleged murder of Mr George Floyd,” North West Metro Region Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said on Wednesday.

Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minnesota a week ago after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

His death has sparked violent protests about police brutality against black Americans in the US and around the world.

Many in the US have included looting, anarchy from demonstrators and attacks on protesters and the media by police.

There had originally been several protests organised in Victoria. They were rolled into one, after police spoke to the co-ordinators.

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The crowd in Sydney on Tuesday. More rallies are planned for this weekend. Photo: Getty

But the rally remains one of many planned for Saturday in Australia.

They will follow a march in Sydney on Tuesday night that drew hundreds of people.

“I understand from my engagement with local Aboriginal community members that there is a sense of frustration that it takes a death of a black American to highlight the experience of the Aboriginal community here in Australia,” Mr Cornelius said.

“The events in America certainly do give us an opportunity to reflect on our own community.”

Online, more than 13,000 people have said they will attend Melbourne’s Stop Black Deaths in Custody and solidarity protest for Mr Floyd.

Police are on high alert to counter-protests that might also occur, but said they respected people’s right to protest.

“In terms of Saturday’s plans, we do respect the right that everybody has to protest peacefully and lawfully,” Mr Cornelius said.

“[But] we would prefer if this protest would occur at another time.”

In an unusual move, Mr Cornelius started Wednesday’s media conference about the protest with an acknowledgement of country.

He said Wednesday was the last day of National Reconciliation Week, and the force was committed to working with the Victorian Aboriginal community.

He urged Victorians to follow public health directions on social distancing to prevent any more coronavirus infections.

Otherwise, Saturday might be a “tipping point”, he said.

“It would be terrible to think that as a result of a large gathering, the most vulnerable people in our community … might, as a result of that gathering, be exposed to the virus,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews has said if the protest is not peaceful, police would step in to restore order.

“Victoria Police will not tolerate violence and will not tolerate some of the disorder that we’ve see overseas,” he said.

While Mr Andrews acknowledged it was not feasible for police to arrest or fine everyone for breaking COVID-19 rules, he urged people to behave.