Yesterday’s Invasion Day protests were a peaceful and powerful showing of solidarity, with the exception of a few random non-compliers.
After a peaceful Invasion Day rally in Sydney’s Domain yesterday, four people were arrested for failing to comply with NSW public health orders.
The altercation occurred as the crowd dispersed to the neighbouring Hyde Park at the end of the event. Police warned a gathered group of people that they were breaching COVID-19 regulations and issued them with an official ‘move on’ order.
Following a scuffle between police, four people were arrested for breaching the peace. Two people will be slapped with a $1000 fine, while one will be charged with hindering police and the other with assaulting an officer.
There were concerns that the rally would end in more arrests if it weren’t for a last-minute deal between event organisers and NSW police. As the current NSW Covid regulations state, only 500 people are allowed to gather outside for a mutual reason. The thousand-person event was able to go on as long as the crowd separated into groups of 500, all while wearing masks and social distancing.
Before the deal, police warned on 2GB radio that people could be arrested and fined if the protest grew too large. “Unfortunately, anyone who attends will be exposed to fines and imprisonment,” Police Minister David Elliot said to 2GB.
Usually, the event sees an upwards of 15,000 attendees, but event organisers announced that the annual march would be cancelled as a part of the deal.
Sydney Invasion Day Rally organisers cancel march due to safety concerns. #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe pic.twitter.com/lvjKgQ41Tc
— NITV (@NITV) January 26, 2021
“We were happy, when you consider in previous years we’ve had up to 15,000 people turn up to these rallies in Sydney alone,” Mr Elliott told Today. “The 3000 crowd dispersed into groups of 500 by negotiation with the police. In return, they didn’t march, which was a great outcome. They complied with the request from police in that regard.”
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Willing also praised the event organisers for maintaining a Covid-safe event, saying:
“We reached some agreement with protest organisers, taking into account the heat that is obvious today, the potential disruption to the city and traffic and, indeed, the safety of all persons who are wanting to express their views as part of this protest to have protest attendees break into groups engage in social distancing as best they possibly could with assistance of police.”
He said the crowd was mostly peaceful and confirmed that the small group who were arrested were not a part of the official event.
.#BREAKING after clashing with police, protestors have been pulled aside and ushered out of Hyde Park. #InvasionDay #auspol2021 @CentralNewsUTS pic.twitter.com/c4rjO1nReh
— Fred Pawle (@Fredkpawle) January 26, 2021
The event saw several First Nation speakers and special music performances by proud Malyangapa/Barkindji rapper Barkaa.
The Invasion Day protest is part of an ongoing fight to #Changethedate of Australia Day from January 26th. To many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, this date marks the last day of Indigenous Sovereignty over this land and signifies the beginning of a violent and traumatic 230 years under colonial rule.
This year, however, there was a dim on the usually celebratory air through the country as many pubs, councils, and even the Australian cricket refused to celebrate the controversial day to stand in solidarity with First Nations People.
This article was written on unceded Gadigal Land.
Happy pays respect to First Nations Peoples from across the country, especially on Eora Nation on whose the land we live and work. We acknowledge the 65,000 years of Indigenous history and sovereignty and support the fight for truth.
Always was, always will be.