“Six people have been arrested during an unauthorised public assembly in Sydney’s CBD today”, NSW Police said.
A further 50 people were also dispersed as protesters gathered to attend a scheduled Black Lives Matter rally despite a NSW Supreme Court order which prohibited the gathering.
The march had been called to highlight the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, building on momentum from global rallies for racial justice and against police brutality.
Organisers had pressed ahead with the gathering despite the courts upholding the police ban, pledging to comply with social distancing restrictions.
“At the weekend, the NSW Supreme Court prohibited the public assembly planned for Sydney today due to health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19. Following an unsuccessful appeal application yesterday (Monday 27 July 2020), the protest remained unauthorised. Despite this, police received information a number of people still planned to attend”, NSW Police said.
“A high-visibility police operation was launched in response to the unauthorised protest today (Tuesday 28 July 2020), to ensure the safety of the community”, they added.
Reuters estimated there were about 50 people gathered on a rainy day in the city, well short of the 500 people that organisers had expected to attend before the ban.
During the operation, three men, aged 40, 37 and 22, and two women aged 50 and 23, were arrested at the Domain and each issued with a $1000 Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) for breaching public health orders, before being issued move-on directions.
A third woman, aged 25, was arrested and issued a Criminal Infringement Notice for offensive language.
Australia on Monday reported its highest ever single-day increase in cases after a flare-up of infections in Victoria state.
Neighbouring New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, is also battling several virus clusters and authorities have warned people taking part in the rally that they risk arrest.
Health Minister Greg Hunt made a last ditch plea for people not to attend, asking them to instead use social media platforms or arrange a silent vigil outside their homes.