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“Disperse, or you will be arrested”: Black Lives Matter protest cut short by police

NSW Police were out in force today to stop Sydney's third Black Lives Matter protest.

NSW Police surround a statue of Captain James Cook in Hyde Park.

Hundreds have been prevented from properly protesting at Hyde Park tonight, after an overwhelming police presence. Honi understands that there were over 600 police, including riot squads, mounted officers and allegedly three vans filled with police dogs.

Police form a barricade over an hour before the protest begins.

The protest followed recent events at Long Bay Gaol, where inmates were reportedly tear gassed by Riot Squad police and the prison’s Immediate Action Team after a fight broke out. It was the same prison complex where David Dungay Jr was killed by guards in 2015.

Co-organised by the Anticolonial Asian Alliance, Indigenous Social Justice Association and Sydney University’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism, the protest called for an end to the use of violence and riot police against incarcerated people.

A protester read out a statement by Aunty Rhonda, who was unable to attend due to health concerns.

“We want to see the government take action now to change the way the police and the court system responds with their systematic racism, inhumane brutality and disregard for Aboriginal people.” 

The protest, which was scheduled to begin at Town Hall at 6:30pm, was relocated to Hyde Park at the last minute over safety concerns. 

Speeches were cut short by police, who surrounded the protesters and told them to disperse as it was an illegal gathering. 

Following police orders, an organiser, an Indigenous woman, pleaded for protesters to go home. “Please go home. Please stay safe. Please let us win this day”, she said.

As crowds began to disperse, tensions quickly escalated as several protesters began chanting “too many coppers, not enough justice.” Honi understands that those who started the chants were not organisers.

The gathering turned into a spontaneous march around Hyde Park, starting at the Archibald Memorial Fountain towards the Anzac Memorial and ending at the Captain Cook Statue. There were several mounted police barricading the statue.

At approximately 6:47pm, police issued a move on order to the entire crowd via megaphone, warning protesters that they would be arrested if they did not leave Hyde Park immediately. Organisers once again implored the crowd to leave.

Protesters in Hyde Park.

Protesters then dispersed, with police directing them towards Museum, Town Hall and St James train stations.

Addressing the police, an organiser said, “We will be back. There will be plenty more protests.” 

Today’s protest marks the third Black Lives Matter demonstration in Sydney, and follows last weekend’s mass rally. Anti-racist uprisings and protests have been spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in America.