Thousands protest racism across Australia

Some 20,000 people turned out in Sydney to march against racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Some 20,000 people turned out in Sydney to march against racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Australians have defied warnings from the prime minister and health experts about the coronavirus risk to turn out in force to protest against racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Black Lives Matter protests in all the major cities and some regional towns were held in solidarity with those in the US, sparked by the death of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The protests were largely peaceful, marred only by a short-lived clash between police and some protesters in Sydney's Central Station after the main rally had dispersed.

Sydney also had the largest crowd, with 20,000 people marching from Town Hall to Belmore Park after the Court of Appeal declared the protest a legal assembly at the eleventh hour.

NSW Police made just three arrests in Sydney, which Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing called a "really positive result".

Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide also had large crowds, with protesters wearing face masks, organisers handing out hand sanitiser and efforts made to ensure social distancing.

But Victoria Police plans to fine Melbourne rally organisers $1652 each for breaching the directions of the chief health officer.

Victoria Police had earlier warned the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance they could face fines if they went ahead with the rally, and on Saturday evening followed through on their warning.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy had said that while people had the right to protest, mass gatherings were dangerous in the midst of a pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had also urged Australians not to attend protests.

Australian Associated Press