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'We can’t breathe. Get off our backs!' - Black Lives Matter protest swamps Melbourne CBD

A sign reading ‘Our Voices Will Be Heard’. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)

Thousands marched on Nicholson Street in Melbourne’s CBD today in a Black Lives Matter and Stop Black Deaths In Custody protest sparked by the recent killing of George Floyd in the United States, coupled with mass injustice against Indigenous Australians, especially at the hands of police, here in Australia.

Melbourne’s peaceful protest was organised by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) and similar protests were held in capital cities around Australia.

A sign reading ‘If Not Now, When?’. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)

Congregating outside Parliament House, the protestors gathered, many with signs demanding systemic change. The calls grew even louder amongst the crowd when the number 432 was mentioned.

432 is the number of First Nations Australians who have died under police custody since 1991, which has been clearly brought to light over the days since George Floyd’s murder.

The biggest cheer was reserved for the rally cries of “We can’t breathe. Get off our backs!” and “Black Lives Matter”, which echoed around the multiculturally diverse crowd. One speaker told the crowd, “we all bleed red, we’re all human.” Another speaker, 17-year-old Ky-ya Nicholson pointed out that First Nations people “make up 28% of Australia’s prison population, 50% of the youth detention population, and yet [are] only three percent of the overall population”.

An African American doctor from the United States, called out Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his comments that Australia shouldn’t be “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia”, saying “Mr Morrison, it doesn’t mean Australia doesn’t have its own dark past”.

Left: A sign reading ‘Same Story Different Story’. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)

Right: Signs reading ‘Australia Is Not Innocent’ and ‘Silence Is Compliance’. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)

As news was delivered to the crowd by one of the organisers that the Berejiklian Government’s ban on Sydney’s Black Lives Matter march was overturned by the NSW Court of Appeal, Australia’s two largest cities joined others across the nation and the world with a march for equality.

The protest organisers were aware of social distancing protocols, stating via the Facebook event page that those who were planning to attend “must wear a mask at the protest” and should “bring your own hand sanitiser and use frequently”. Masks and hand sanitisers were also given out for free at the protest by the organisers.

The protestors stayed for an hour and fifteen minutes outside Parliament House on Nicholson Street before continuing down the heart of the CBD, down Bourke Street to the corner of Bourke and Swanston.

Left: Protestors in the city. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)

Right: Protestors in the CBD, with police officers watching on. (Photo: Caspar McLeod)


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