Fears of violent clashes at a major Black Lives Matter protest in Australia has led to its cancellation as similar events are scheduled around the country.
Local activists want to stand in solidarity with those protesting the death of US man George Floyd in Minneapolis while bringing attention to indigenous deaths in custody.
Beginning on Monday evening in Perth’s CBD, thousands of people are expected to rally in all five mainland capitals this week.
But one rally, which would have had people march through Sydney’s CBD on Tuesday evening, was cancelled due to concerns over the safety of attendees.
“We have had some people intending to wreak havoc and protest against the event,” an organiser posted to Facebook on Monday.
“This event was meant to be a time for Aboriginal voices to be heard but, due to uncertainty of safety for all involved, we would like to (advise) cancellation of the protest.
“Safety is always a priority and it breaks the hearts of everyone involved to have to cancel this event.”
The organisers – Fighting In Solidarity Towards Treaties – redirected people to a Sydney vigil for Mr Floyd at Railway Square at 3pm on Saturday.
The Australian Communist Party later said it would organise a replacement event for Tuesday at 5pm in Hyde Park.
Some 4500 people have indicated via social media they will rally on the steps of Victorian Parliament in Melbourne from 2pm on Saturday.
Another 2000 say they will be in Brisbane’s King George Square from 1pm that day.
The organiser of both rallies – Aboriginal nationalism youth group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance – will call for an end to black deaths in custody and will express solidarity for Mr Floyd and “the Minneapolis freedom fighters”.
“BLACK LIVES MATTER!” the group posted.
Several people have asked how social distancing will be accommodated.
Demonstrators are also expected to gather from noon on Saturday in Adelaide’s Tarntanyangga or Victoria Square.
Several events also aim to draw attention to indigenous deaths in custody including that of 26-year-old David Dungay Jnr in a Sydney jail in 2015.
While prone, Mr Dungay repeatedly screamed “I can’t breathe”, to which one officer replied: “You’re talking, you can breathe.”
A coroner in 2019 found the prone restraint was a contributory factor but cleared the five prison officers of malicious intent.
More than 400 indigenous people have died in police custody in three decades since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody concluded, Amnesty International Australia said on Monday.
National director Sam Klintworth said it was wrong to think Australia was “free of the kind of racialised violence making international headlines”.
“Australia has a shameful record in its treatment of indigenous people in custody,” she said in a statement on Monday.
“(It) has compounded the trauma of dispossession by allowing kids as young as 10 to be locked up, condemning them to the brutalising effect of the youth detention system which sees children caught in the quicksand of the justice system, instead of with family in community.”
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