The Advertiser – Coronavirus victims’ families fear Black Lives Matter protest could trigger outbreak

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The Advertiser – Coronavirus victims’ families fear Black Lives Matter protest could trigger outbreak

06 June 2020
US protesters walk over the Brooklyn Bridge following a memorial service for George Floyd, the man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Picture: Justin Heiman/Getty Images

STEVE RICE AND ANDREW HOUGH
Feature

The grieving families of two South Australian coronavirus victims are urging protesters to rethink attending an Adelaide anti-racism rally over fears of a potential second outbreak.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has granted a one-off exemption to allow thousands of people to gather in Victoria Square for a Black Lives Matter protest from noon Saturday.

The SA decision is at odds with the Prime Minister and eastern states, where protesters have been told to stay away.

The NSW Supreme Court on Friday night banned a planned Sydney rally of thousands of protesters.

And Victorian protesters have been warned they will be breaking the law if they rally.

Almost 4000 people are expected to attend the Victoria Square rally in Adelaide in solidarity with those seeking racial equality in Australia and overseas after the horrifying death of black American George Floyd in police custody.

Mr Stevens said the protest was a “unique and extraordinary event” that required balancing public health considerations with citizens’ rights to peacefully protest.

“There is a sentiment that suggests that people should have a right to peacefully protest on significant matters,” he said.

“There is also the reality that with significant numbers of people attending that the potential to prevent it from occurring is also a very difficult challenge for police.

“This can occur as a peaceful protest and we’re very keen to work with organisers to ensure it’s peaceful and it’s conducted in accordance with the social distancing principles.”

A poll on Advertiser.com.au on Friday showed widespread opposition to the rally going ahead.

Mr Stevens said he considered advice from chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and SA’s “virtually non-existent” community transmission of coronavirus.

But Sandi Todd, the widow of Riverland businessman Malcolm Todd, told The Advertiser she was “extremely concerned” about the rally and urged attendees to adhere to social distancing requirements.

“I understand where they are coming from but when I think about it, they are saying their priority is ‘black lives matter’ over the health of black people and any other people,” Mrs Todd, 74, said.

“This protest could end up costing people their lives. If there is an outbreak as a result of it, that’s the price. I don’t think the risk is worth the possible outcome.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Stephen Lavender, the widower of Ruby Princess cruise ship passenger Linda Lavender.

“I hope they think about each other and not just think about the reason they are protesting because I don’t want people to go through what we have gone through,” Mr Lavender, 67, said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has encouraged protesters not to attend anti-racism rallies this weekend, saying it could lead to another coronavirus outbreak.

SA’s decision to allow the protest is in contrast with Queensland, Victoria and NSW, where the Supreme Court ruled that businesses had “given up a lot” to tackle coronavirus. Police in NSW and Victoria have vowed to fine protesters who flout gathering restrictions.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said Mr Stevens’ decision to grant the exemption was difficult but authorities trusted South Australians to do the right thing.

“Those people who feel very much that they’ve got to be at that rally, well, if they go, I think they just need to make sure that they can be socially distanced,” Mr Marshall said.

An Opposition spokesman said decisions should be based on expert health advice.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians not to protest, adding that liberty came with responsibility. He said Australians went through the “absolute agony” of not being able to attend funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Australians owe all those Australians a great duty of responsibility, so I say to them: don’t go,” Mr Morrison said.

The Federal Government’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy warned against taking part in the protests, saying large gatherings were “fundamentally dangerous”.

He said one high viral load person could infect 30 to 40 people.

SOS Blak Australia SA Action Group community member and protest co-host Natasha Wanganeen said she appreciated Mr Stevens granting the exemption.

“It’s a sign on his behalf to show he wants to move forward as a collective instead of not recognising this and turning a blind eye like we’ve done in the past so many times,” Ms Wanganeen said.

Adelaide City Council Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde said protesters risked undoing efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“The heinous murder of George Floyd has been rightly condemned across Australia but we should not be endangering lives by allowing the protest to go ahead,” he said.

Liberal Senator Alex Antic said: “I don’t understand why a distinction is being made for a protest rally, which is likely to involve thousands of people in proximity to each other.”


Read the original article here.

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