Thousands of people have gathered at Langley Park in the Perth CBD for a Black Lives Matter rally, despite calls from Premier Mark McGowan to postpone the event and the City of Perth refusing to grant a permit for it.
Organisers had encouraged those in attendance to observe social distancing in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, with 11,000 masks and hand sanitiser provided at hygiene stations throughout the area.
As the rally began, most protesters appeared to be observing distancing requirements, wearing masks and sitting or standing alone or in small groups.
Between 8,000 and 15,000 people were expected to attend the rally, according to the City of Perth.
On Friday afternoon, the council confirmed it had declined a request for an event permit, submitted by rally organisers on Thursday.
Langley Park West is estimated to be able to accommodate 20,000 people with 1.5-metre distancing, with overflow space available if required.
Mr McGowan advised protesters earlier in the week that the rally was not within coronavirus guidelines and urged people to adhere to physical-distancing rules.
By Friday, the Premier was pleading with organisers to postpone the rally until the coronavirus pandemic was over, with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson urging people not to attend and calling for the event to be delayed.
Protesters have outlined “five demands” for change, including an end to racial violence and a reduction in the rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people.
‘Giving me hope,’ elder says
Jacinta Taylor, one of the event organisers, said she hoped the rally would achieve long-lasting change.
Her father, 79-year-old Noongar elder Ben Taylor, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his tireless efforts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.
“There have been people like my dad who have been pushing for change since they were my age,” she said.
“I don’t want to have to be 80 years old and still pushing for this kind of change.”
Mr Taylor said he was proud of his daughter and the other young Indigenous women who had organised the event.
“It is giving me hope and it is going to give other young people hope,” he said.
Ahead of the rally, hundreds of people gathered outside the Perth headquarters of mining giant Rio Tinto to demonstrate against the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site in WA’s Pilbara region.
Meanwhile, a 30-year-old man was arrested for allegedly defacing a statue of WA’s first governor, Captain James Stirling, in the Perth CBD.