FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference held with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people not to attend planned Black Lives Matter protests around the country this weekend, citing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Organizers expect thousands of people to attend rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities. The protests have split opinion, with some state police and lawmakers approving the action despite the health risks.
Morrison said people should find other ways to express anger following the death of black American George Floyd in U.S. police custody.
“The health advice is very clear, it’s not a good idea to go,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments … let’s exercise our liberties responsibly.”
The protests will also throw a spotlight on police treatment of Australian indigenous people, including the deaths of Aboriginal men in custody.
Australia has reported daily single digit and low double digit numbers of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and has 490 active cases, with just 25 people in hospital.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Jane Wardell