Charges against organizers of Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter march to be dropped

McKinnon and Onus, alongside fellow organizer Tarneen Onus-Williams, were fined $1,652 each for breaking coronavirus restrictions when they organized the rally.

The Onus-Williams fine was later withdrawn, but lawyers for McKinnon and Onus were due to challenge the case in court this month.

Organizers said precautions were taken during the rally to ensure it was safe, with face masks and sanitizer provided.Credit:Justin McManus

Organizers said the rally was aimed at highlighting systemic racism and Indigenous deaths in custody and mirrored similar marches around the world following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

However, the march was criticized by senior state government officials at the time, with the Prime Minister, Director of Health and even the Prime Minister urging people not to attend, fearing it would become a very common event.

In the days leading up to the protest, new chief commissioner Shane Patton said those involved must be held to account.

This followed a ruling by the NSW Supreme Court that a Black Lives Matter march in Sydney was not allowed to go ahead.

At the time, lockdown measures in Victoria banned public gatherings of more than 20 people.

There were 74 active cases of COVID-19 in the state that day. On Tuesday – more than two years later – Department of Health data showed there were 49,253 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.

In a statement provided to ageMcKinnon and UN said that at the time of the rally, pandemic restrictions allowed public gatherings in an emergency, and they argued that the rate at which First Nations people continued to die in custody constituted a national emergency. .

They also said precautions were taken during the rally to ensure it was safe, with members of key First Nations organizations on hand to provide face masks and sanitizer “so that our collective voices can be heard safely”.

An inquest into the death of Indigenous woman Veronica Nelson in April found 505 First Nations people had died in custody since the findings of the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody were released in 1991.

When asked if police were dropping other charges related to breaching pandemic restrictions, a police spokesperson said there were currently no large-scale charges dropped .

“Victoria Police are not aware of any general issues associated with the withdrawal of COVID-19 related charges or penalty notices issued by Victoria Police,” they said.

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“On a case-by-case basis, certain cases may be withdrawn in court or through the review process, depending on the specific circumstances of the incident.”

News of the charges being dropped comes during NAIDOC Week, which recognizes the history and culture of Australia’s First Nations people.

The charges are expected to be officially dropped in court later this month.

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