Approximately 200 protestors gathered in Sydney today to draw attention to the struggle of hundreds of refugees brought from Manus Island and Nauru who are being held in high-risk detention centres and hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Following the police barricade of Town Hall during last night’s Black Lives Matter protest, the organisers Refugee Action Coalition Sydney (RAC) and Pride in Protest had to change the location of the action. Initially beginning at Town Hall at 2pm, protesters were encouraged to walk, run or cycle around the block in an attempt to escape police attention or move on orders. Marshalls then directed protesters to the corner of Dixon Street and Goulburn Street in the city, for a 3pm start.
The action drew attention to the fact that many of the refugees currently being held in detention centres in Australia have not received the medical care for which they were brought to the mainland, and that the government has refused calls to release them during the pandemic despite the high-risk detention environment.
Refugees are continuing to stage regular protests inside detention to call for their freedom.
Charlie Murphy, a Mardi Gras Board member from Pride in Protest, condemned the actions of the Australian Government for the horrible conditions they have placed refugees in, and “for letting refugees languish for seven years,” on Nauru and Manus Island.
“We stand in solidarity with those onshore in Kangaroo Point in Queensland, in the Mantra in Victoria, with those in Villawood, and we stand in solidarity with the activists who have protested at those facilities as well.”
“We will always remain in solidarity with our refugee siblings, with our black siblings, with our First Nation siblings. We fight for all of our freedoms and we can only be free together. Close the camps, close the detention centres, close the prisons and free the refugees.”
Protesters chanted “free, free the refugees” and “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
However, Charlie was the only speaker who was able to take to the megaphone. At 3:15pm, the organisers were notified that the police were on their way with a megaphone and the intention to disperse the crowd. The speak out became a march as police ushered protesters through Chinatown. Chants of “too many coppers, not enough justice” became interspersed with refugee chants.
The protesters kept walking until they reached Belmore Park, where they were ordered to disperse by police on bicycles, who reiterated that they were breaching the public health order. Police kept pushing the crowd towards Central Station, as chants and arguments continued.
Refugee supporters are holding protests outside the detention hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane this weekend.