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Australian police seek ban on Black Lives Matter rally over COVID-19

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Australian police on Friday sought to stop a Black Lives Matter protest from going ahead in Sydney this weekend, saying it poses coronavirus health risks.

About 10,000 people have expressed interest in attending the rally on Saturday in the city centre in solidarity with US protesters and to express anger about indigenous deaths in Australian custody, reports the BBC.

Organisers have told attendees to wear face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), and to try and maintain distance from others.

But New South Wales (NSW) Police and the state government had asked the Supreme Court of NSW to have the protest “deemed illegal”. A verdict is expected later Friday.

State Premier Gladys Berijiklian said the protest had been approved initially, but the rise in probable attendees had raised concerns about social distancing.

“This is because the protesters could not guarantee adherence to the health orders. They could not guarantee safe social distancing,” she added.

NSW has allowed many businesses to reopen, outdoor gatherings of 50 people to go ahead, and encouraged local travel as the country was slowly lifting its coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Since the killing of African-American man George Floyd in the US, Australians have protested against their own country’s disproportionate number of black deaths in custody, said the BBC report.

Demonstrations have already been held in cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

Police in Melbourne have urged people not to attend a planned protest there, pleading with organisers to cancel the event and threatening to issue fines. However, in Brisbane and Adelaide, protests have received police approval.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the protests on Friday, saying “don’t go”.

“Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments, rather than putting your own health at risk, the health of others at risk,” he said.

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