Invasion Day rally proceeds despite NSW Health refusal to grant coronavirus exemption – ABC News

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Invasion Day protesters are gathering in Sydney despite the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard issuing an 11th-hour refusal to grant the demonstrators an exemption to coronavirus public health orders.

More than 7,500 people who registered their interest for the Invasion Day rally at The Domain this morning could risk arrests and fines for attending.

Rally organisers submitted a request to Mr Hazzard for an exemption to the 500 person cap for protests, which came into effect in response to the Avalon COVID-19 outbreak in December.

The protest’s organisers, being represented by the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), launched a late-night action yesterday in a bid to force the Health Minister to make a decision.

Their hearing was scheduled to be held in the NSW Supreme Court at 9.00pm but shortly before it began, Mr Hazzard formally refused the exemption.

Despite a warning from police that people could be fined or arrested if the protest becomes too big, the event will go ahead.

“We urge all people who support our cause to still turn up,” the Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties, who helped organise the rally, said on the Facebook event page.

“We have done everything in our power to make this rally safe from both the pandemic and police.

“Stopping the violence that black lives and black land faces every day is too important to put on hold and we will be there tomorrow to fight for change.”

COVID Marshalls Invasion Day SydneyCOVID Marshalls Invasion Day Sydney
Dozens of COVID marshals were on-site to help maintain social distancing and provide hand sanitiser for demonstrators.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

By 9.00am today, protesters had started arriving at The Domain with a large group of “legal observers” in pink vests also attending.

NSW Police have told the ABC they are working to allow separate groupings of up to 500 people to gather in The Domain.

Organisers have said the protest will be a “COVID safe event” with strict safety protocols, social distancing and a requirement for participants to register their attendance and wear a mask.

However, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing yesterday warned officers would be enforcing the public health orders.

“Do not come in and be part of that public gathering, find another way to express your views and opinions,” he said.

“We are all aware that these are sensitive issues and they are very important issues to a lot of people but we are still in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re asking people to abide by those health orders.”

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