Police in Australia arrested at least five people in Sydney on Jan. 26 for breaching COVID-19 rules during a protest against the national holiday that marks Australia’s colonization.
New South Wales Police arrested five protesters for minor offenses of defying public health conduct rules and scuffling with police during Australia Day, which has drawn thousands to rally against the date despite the COVID-19 rules only allowing 500 people to gather.
“With the exception of the few, they were well-behaved,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said at a televised news conference.
NSW Police estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people gathered in Sydney as part of the years-old “change the date” campaign led by Indigenous Australians, who have branded the day as “Invasion Day” due to the day marking the arrival of the British First Fleet in Sydney in 1788 to start a penal colony.
Television footage showed protesters shouting “always was, always will be Aboriginal Land,” “sovereignty was never ceded,” and “no justice, no peace.”
Thousands also attended rallies in other cities across the country, including Melbourne, Hobert, and Adelaide, while organizers urged protesters to observe physical distancing and to wear masks.
In Adelaide, around 4,000 people gathered for a sit-down protest.
Australian activist Grace Tame, who received the Australian of the Year award last Jan. 25, told local newspapers The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, “It costs us nothing as a nation to actually change that date. And it would mean a lot to that community and to our national community. I think that’s important.”
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