A solemn crowd of around three thousand people attended a Black Lives Matter gathering in Hobart today.
It was the first large gathering of any sort in the capital since the COVID-19 crisis began to bite in late February. The event took place on the lawns in front of Parliament House.
In a glimpse of what coronavirus-era political events look like, the organisers took pains to ensure social distancing and hygiene. Hand sanitiser and free cloth masks were available at multiple points around the lawns. The number of people on the lawns was monitored, and entry halted until others had left.
Supporters were encouraged to share a positive thought, light a candle, leave a message of support, cleanse themselves with smoke, and leave. Organisers said it was a not rally, but a chance for the wider community to show their support.
A sacred circle for ‘mob’ – Aboriginal people – was provided as a safe space and for healing, with a firepit in the centre.
“Here are, time and time again, crying out that black lives matter,” said Kartayna Maynard, one of the speakers. She referred to 432 deaths since 1991 and the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.
“We’re tired. We’re so bloody tired of fighting, of crying, of wondering whether we or our loved ones are next … Here we are, holding another vigil, mourning once again. We’ve been in mourning for 232 years. I don’t want to mourn any more.”
She thanked activists for justice working hard all around the world and urged supporters to not just be allies, but be active ones.
The event was in solidarity with the widespread protests that have broken out, and continue, across the USA and around the world. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police, and have focused on the treatment of people of colour by law enforcement agencies.
Police observed the nipaluna event from a distance.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said prior to the event that the protests this weekend in Hobart and Launceston are a significant risk to the Tasmanian community and people should not attend in person and instead express their protestations in other ways.
“I urge all Tasmanians to refrain from participating in the protests. I understand the strong sentiment of those wanting to protest as is their democratic right, but we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic” Senator Abetz said.
“We couldn’t march for the ANZACs, so people should not be marching now. Too much is at stake. We’ve sacrificed much; the borders have been closed and jobs and businesses lost.”