UPDATED — July 6 2022: Victoria Police has confirmed it’s actually not dropping charges against Melbourne’s Black Lives matter protest organisers after literally telling them otherwise. Talk about truly fucked behaviour.
All charges against Amangu Yamaji woman Dr Crystal McKinnon and Gunai and Gunditjmara woman Meriki Onus were originally expected to be dropped by Victoria Police, two full years after the 2020 protests.
The organisers’ lawyer Ali Besiroglu said police had confirmed on Tuesday all charges would be dropped.
“We are unable to comment while the matters are currently before the court other than to confirm that Victoria Police has advised us that the charges against Dr McKinnon and Ms Onus will be withdrawn,” he said per The Age.
“We vow to continue standing alongside First Nations peoples in our collective pursuit for justice and wish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities a happy NAIDOC Week.”
But now, Victoria Police have confirmed it actually isn’t dropping the charges. It blamed a “miscommunication”.
A spokesperson confirmed all of this to The Age on Wednesday.
“A miscommunication by Victoria Police wrongly identified the matter would be withdrawn,” said the spokesperson.
“We can confirm the charges have not been withdrawn and the matter will proceed at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
“A 41-year-old woman from Geelong North and a 34-year-old woman from Reservoir were charged with breaching chief health officer directions.”
The fk???? https://t.co/sJkJZtOiHx— Chelsea Watego (@drcwatego) July 6, 2022
Protest organisers were charged with breaching the Chief Health Officer’s lockdown orders by organising the march against Aboriginal deaths in custody through Melbourne’s CBD in June 2020 and were fined $1652 each. They’re due to appear in court this month to fight the charges.
“The Victorian Government presents itself as a progressive government committed to addressing past and ongoing violence against First Nations peoples through various initiatives, while at the same time trying to silence the voices who have had enough of our people dying in custody and who demand change,” they said.
“At the time of the Black Lives Matter rally a significant number of our people had died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. That number has only increased. The message is not getting through.”
Fellow organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams was also fined but it was withdrawn.
The organisers were the subject of vitriol in 2020 from government officials, police and the public who accused them of helping spread COVID-19, which we now know wasn’t the case.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller at the time spread blatant lies in the media that the Black Lives Matter rally had caused the first wave of COVID and put Melbourne back “five or 10 years economically”.
Newscorp news outlets also published false information about the protest sparking a COVID cluster.
But not a single case was linked to the event and anyone who attended will know how seriously the organisers took health and safety. Every attendee wore a face mask and the crowd was split into smaller groups for the actual march, in accordance with gathering limits at the time.