Hundreds of Australians marched in solidarity through downtown Sydney on Tuesday protesting the death of George Floyd and demanding the country look at police brutality within its borders.
More than 1,000 marched from Hyde Park to New South Wales state parliament carrying banners that said: “Black Lives Matter,” “Aboriginal Lives Matter,” “White Silence is Violence” and “We See you, We Hear You, We Stand With You.”
Protesters also chanted “Justice today for David Dungay,” a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who said, “I can’t breathe” 12 times before he died in 2015, restrained by five prison guards.
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Kieran Stewart-Assheton, who helped organize Tuesday’s demonstration, said it was in solidarity with the U.S. and to raise awareness about the same racial inequality targeting Australia’s indigenous population.
“We are here to stand in solidarity with the African-American community, and we are here to raise awareness of indigenous deaths in custody and the atrocious rates that Indigenous people are incarcerated in Australia,” Stewart-Assheton told the Guardian.
“We hear about everything that happens overseas in the mainstream media. But we turn a blind eye to what happens in our own backyards. There has been an outpouring of support in white media for Black Lives Matter in the US, but a lot of these people are unaware of what is happening here in Australia.”
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Tuesday’s demonstration also came as footage emerged showing an indigenous 16-year-old in Surry Hills slammed face-first to the pavement by a Sydney police officer during an arrest.
A relative told the Guardian the boy was taken to the hospital after the arrest and treated for bruising, cuts to his knee, face, and elbow and chipped teeth.
It was not immediately clear what led to the arrest. Police said the officer was patrolling Surry Hills, a suburb of Sydney, when he encountered a group of teenagers. In a statement, a spokesperson said the teenager threatened an officer, leading to the arrest.
An internal investigation is underway, and the police officer was placed on “restricted duties.”
“It happens so often. It is an Australian problem. We are sick of it,” said Stewart-Assheton.
Mick Willing, the assistant commissioner for the NSW Police, told reporters that he is “concerned” by the footage of the arrest but that he was “equally concerned about others who may use this footage to turn the incident into something it’s not.”
“We’re all well aware of what’s happening overseas, but this is not the United States of America,” he said, according to local media. He did not say whether he believed the police officer’s action was appropriate.
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Anti-police brutality demonstrations in the wake of Floyd’s death have spread across the globe with protests popping up in London, Berlin, Denmark and New Zealand.
Around 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Australia’s west coast city of Perth on Monday night to peacefully protest Floyd’s death, and rallies are planned for other Australian cities this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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