In Sydney, arrests were made at a rally attended by up to 2000 people. The protesters were arrested for breaking COVID-19 rules as they rallied against the annual Australia Day holiday.
The day is controversial as it marks the start of Australia’s colonization, which is the anniversary of Britain’s First Fleet arriving in Sydney in 1788. The day is known by its critics as “Invasion Day,” and it attracts annual protest rallies drawing attention to the injustices faced by Indigenous people.
Indigenous Australians have led campaigns against the national holiday
For years, Indigenous Australians have lobbied to move the holiday, as it celebrates the suffering of the people indigenous to Australia.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, some official events were canceled. This did not stop the protesters, with some of them shouting “sovereignty was never ceded” and “no justice, no peace.” They also held placards and banners reading “Not a Date to Celebrate” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Australian authorities refused to waive the cap on numbers for the protests this year, despite no new infections being recorded in the city for more than a week. Thousands of people attended rallies in other cities across the country, with organizers asking protesters to maintain physical distance where possible and wear masks.
Australian government refuses to change the date of the Australian holiday
Despite the huge controversy surrounding the day, the Australian government has maintained its support for the holiday. Polls carried out by the government showed that most Australians are in favor of keeping the holiday.
The country’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said in a statement that the day represents how far Australia has come since the First Fleet arrived.
“There is no escaping or canceling this fact,” he said at a ceremony in the capital Canberra. “For better and worse, it was the moment when the journey to our modern nation began.”