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September 19, 2021

Black Lives Matter in Byron and Lismore

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An Estimated 5000 supporters turned out for a rally in Byron Bay to honour George Floyd and show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Byron Bay and Lismore on Saturday to demand justice for Indigenous Australians, an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody, and to support the global Black Lives Matter movement.

In an extraordinary show of solidarity amidst the COVI-19 crisis, at least 5,000 locals carrying placards and Aboriginal flags rallied at the Byron recreation grounds from around 3.30pm.

Among them were local indigenous elders and leaders, and representatives from indigenous nations across the country.

Speakers included Arakwal woman Nickolla Clark, who read out the Statement from the Dungay family, former magistrate David Heilpern, Dhinawan Baker, Elle Davidson, Belle Budden and Danny Teece-Johnson.

There were also representatives from local police, including Byron’s most senior police officer, Detective Inspector Matt Kehoe.

‘Keep this story going, keep it alive, keep our people alive,’  a representative of the Buyarra Culture Collective told the crowd.

The Collective performed a number of traditional dances, including a dance to call in the spirits of the ancestors.

Those gathered knelt at Apex Park for 8mins 45 seconds in memory of George Floyd – The amount of time reflects how long former US police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck before he died.

The rally also cheered on local rapper Jacob and heard songs from Áine Tyrrel.

A thousand stand together in Lismore

Cindy Roberts encouraged all mob to get in a circle together and supporters were invited to stand around them in a circle in unity and solidarity. The Police joined this circle as well. Photo Maddy-Rose Braddon.

The rally was one of dozens held across the country, including a large rally in the centre of Lismore which saw around 1,000 people rally at the Spinks Park Transit Centre and march to the Lismore police station.

Protesters Maddy-Rose Braddon said that Widjabul woman Cindy Roberts spoke about the Aboriginal Deaths in custody and the ongoing systemic racism in Australia. ‘There were powerful stories told by other black people too. It felt safe. There was hand sanitiser and masks available.

Ms Braddon said Uncle Gilbert spoke and shared a smoking ceremony with John Paden. ‘There was a beautiful and important moment when Cindy encouraged all mob to get in a circle together and supporters were invited to stand around them in a circle in unity and solidarity.

‘The police were invited to join too and they did. We all got on one knee with our fists in the air to demonstrate our solidarity with the black lives matter movement to end racist violence and deaths’.


Photos of the Byron rally Jeff Dawson

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  1. In a nutshell, all this ‘black anger’ is really just a theatrical display to extract even more privileges, everything falls into place. Why the media love it — they go for anything a bit theatrical that can boost ratings — and why so many whites get involved — they like the feel good excitement of audience participation. And why there’s no end game, no final goal — why would you ever say that’s enough when there’s always more to get? None of it has any meaning beyond the extraction of more and more exclusive rights and services for aborigines.

  2. No social distancing so they have put the rest of society at risk if they get COVID. And appalingly, they took their children along too. The little ones are innocent and should NEVER be taken to demonstrations. So any parent who takes their child to a protest, cares more about the issue than their own child.

  3. Brigitte & I were sympathisers who stayed ion the safety of our home. (Part of Scomos ´Quiet Auystralians´)
    I would have loved to attend & my thanks to those who did.

    All we need now is action from our Governments (State & Federal). Come on Scomo & Gladys! Let us see some action!

  4. The horrendous murders committed by’ law enforcement’ in USA deserves swift and harsh response .
    I am not convinced looting and arson is appropriate though,nor am I convinced that the Aboriginal bandwagoneers have any credibility in this circumstance.
    We all know the police here, are habitually encouraged to kick the poor and downtrodden and from my experience that is an ‘equal opportunity’ scenario. The difference is that Aboriginies have a vaste and publically funded legal system and often the choice of legal systems, to lessen the possibility of being held to account . In spite of this, large numbers are incarcerated, perhaps due to the belief that
    “white-fella law”doesn’t apply.
    This racist attitude is exemplified in the constant refrain of the “Black Deaths” in custody, while other deaths are ignored. How many other deaths in custody have occured in the last thirty years ?
    All lives matter .
    The militarisation and brutality of police forces is the issue World-Wide, as is the criminalisation of the poor, and while racism is rampant in the USA , it is nonsense to jump on that bandwagon in an effort to support racism as an issue here.
    Cheers, G”)

  5. Virtual protest? I didn’t hear our conservative pollies criticising the anti COVID lock down groups. What can you say when they try to deny what is happening to our indigenous people.

  6. Indigenous people didn’t bring the virus into Australia, it was privileged, selfish, white people who brought it in from their overseas holidays and skiing in America, then recklessly wandered all over the country spreading the virus where ever they went.

    After 230+ years of brutality, dispossession, stolen lives, stolen children, stolen land, shocking racism, 432 deaths in custody for which NO ONE has been held accountable, how about we stop killing Indigenous people? instead of brutality and over policing people then locking them up in gaols to die, what if we improve their living conditions, access to health, education and employment instead, then we wouldn’t need to be out protesting.

    Strange there wasn’t any fuss at the height of the pandemic when the PM said it was ok for 50,000 people to go the footy, and he was going too. Seems the footy could be back next week-not much concern about the virus spreading there.

    Indigenous lives are more important than footy.

  7. Nerida vilifying the messenger (right or wrong and or both) should not forsake the validity of the message. The message is valid and worthy of protest.You seem to agree, so perhaps best to acknowledge that first and foremost and then if you do have better suggestions on method, then please do offer them. What virtual protest you do you propose?

  8. And just on the point of “careless”. would you agree that is subjective judgement? I went surfing today at broken head when on sunday a man died from shark attack in tweed. Some will judge that as reckless, many others not necessarily narcissistic disagree and call it a ‘ on balance’ judgement.

  9. Jesus was crucified because he put himself out for others. Anyway the Prime Minister encouraged people to go to the rally in Melbourne.
    Food for thought.
    Love is the answer.

  10. At the risk of ‘push back’ but as a doctor concerned about our community:

    ‘All lives matter’. The issue of black deaths in custody is important, but the right of someone to raise their arm in protest ends when it risks some else’s right to live – to die for no other reason then that they were a vulnerable member of a community where their right to safety was taken from them. It will be sad if even one person dies from Coronavirus because of the mass crowds at the rallies. All lives matter.

  11. Is that you Matthias Cormann? The only thing this current Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison administration does is always find a weasel way to deflect away from urgent issues. There is always some excuse they dream up to say ‘Now is not the time for…” and so dream up this nonsense idea of ‘virtual protest’ which the pollies would happily ignore because it isn’t right there in there faces with mass media coverage on the streets as it unfolds in real time. Nerida, we all going to die some day but we mostly can afford the luxury to not have that as front and centre everyday thought in our minds. It is rather more different for our black brothers and sisters. So if Saturday wasn’t the ‘right day’ then there never will be. Our First Australians have put up with racist disempowerment for 250 years. When the PM can’t say a single word about the dynamiting of a 46,000 years old Aboriginal sacred site and instead sends out Matthias Cormann to denounce the protest and the protestors, it tells you all you need to know about how much The Government truly, really cares about First Australians ..if not ZERO then pretty much close to it.

  12. Gordon old son, just terrible what you have written. What part of racist brutality and dispossession since 1770 are you not getting old son. “No end game, no final goal”, you posit. Can you please try to catch up by starting with ‘The Uluru Statement from The Heart”, the thing that the whitey masters in Federal Parliament dismissed out of hand despite asking The First Nations People for what they wanted to see happen. You right with “No end game”, it is exactly how the whitey skin masters in authority want to play this game.

  13. Ironically, the illegal European invaders lack of social distancing caused hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal deaths from introduced diseases, followed by decades of mass murders (including whole family groups frog marched down to this regions beaches where they were violently murdered). A number of the comments above show that the contagion of racism, whether direct, or in naive callous disregard to ongoing state murders, is still widespread, and while there is numerous international bodies working on a Corona cure, the fantastic Byron community rally is the community calling for the contagion of racism to also be worked on and cured. And attended significantly by white people, who will never be treated with a choked to death knee on their neck, who get that they are treated in a privileged manner not shared by Australians of Aboriginal background.
    The 230 years of deaths from racism in this country have, and will continue, to exceed the deaths from corona virus, unless we drive change. Rally or not to Rally – it was a question of priorities.

  14. Right, people…….. so many of you were out & about playing
    with sharks, getting late beach-tans, crossing & recrossing
    borders, drinking in pubs & distancing was a disturbance.
    Others went shopping & – because they do not believe that
    distancing’s necessary they just trampled all over every one
    & every thing. Quiet Aussies? Loud Aussies. No time to
    think about ‘deaths or The Uluru Statement.’ Ah, aren’t we
    The Lucky Country. We weren’t invaded. The unlucky ones
    were. Go get a heart.

  15. Congratulations to the Indigenous community of Byron Bay for organising such a powerful and important march. Thank you to the local police for assisting. The sheer number of attendees shows how so many Australians, of all races, feel strongly that the shameful issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody requires urgent action.

  16. Dr Heyning people are in more danger in the supermarket and shopping centers than we were on Saturday. Byron was full of people not caring about social distancing, too focused on enjoying themselves.

    There wouldn’t need to be protests if people and governments stopped the brutality and racism. The heavily armed policeman who assaulted that teenager in Sydney over such a trivial incident, should have given some thought to the possible consequences of his actions.

    The confected outrage from politicians about protests is in stark contrast to their silence on the human rights abuses in this country. Blaming, and trying to silence the victims, and trying to deflect attention from the awful mess we’ve created in the 230+ years since colonization, does not help anyone.

  17. I don’t think everyone concerned about the wisdom of mass gatherings is trying to silence anyone or ‘blame the victims’, Louise. This is emotive rhetoric and twisting. I also don’t know if you are in a position to advise a GP about the relative dangers of particular activities.

    In response to the news that there has been one positive test today from an attendee at the Melbourne march, one contributor made a telling observation: ‘ “Be the change you want to see happen”. The protesters had the an amazing and significant opportunity to lead by example and inspire us all to be a better society. The message and example presented was “my personal agenda and ego matters more than the safety of my community”, the exact same belief system they are protesting and fighting against’. There is also the significant danger of backlash against a cause that was gaining much support eg the go fund me campaigns. I sincerely hope the second planned rally for Sydney doesn’t go ahead.

  18. Silencing and blaming the victims is exactly what Morrison and Berejiklian et a are about. It’s not just Aboriginal people who are sick to death of the patronizing rubbish from privileged white people who ignore the reality of the brutality that has gone on since colonization, for which we all owe our comfortable lives.

    How about white people lead by example and tell our racist politicians we want recognition and recompense for the most disadvantaged people on the planet? Just as the thousands of white people at the rallies were doing. We should all hang our heads in shame that the First Australians have more chance of going to gaol, where they can be left to die, than university? . We put young children in detention for the most trivial offences where they’re also brutalised. SHOCKING!

    The ball is firmly in Morrison’s court. He has the power to act to stop the brutality, deaths in custody, racism and abuse of Aboriginal Human Rights and there’ll be no need for protests. How hard can that be?

    Or he can keep winding up the provocative, ignorant rhetoric, such as: ‘there’s never been slavery in Australia’ (!!) send in the police and create violence on the streets, a la Trump’s America. Won’t that be great?

    Do a lot to stop the virus spreading.

  19. Louise please read what I say carefully if you are going to hector me with the obvious – with observations thousands of us share. I said not ‘EVERYONE concerned about the wisdom of mass gatherings is trying to silence anyone or ‘blame the victims’. Conservative voices are not the only ones in this valid discussion and unfortunately, nor will any fallout from the marches be confined to them.

    Restating the clearly valid grievances and explaining, again accurately, that people everywhere are carelessly ignoring health advice, seems deliberately evading the point. The point being that there is something anomalous about protesting a callous disregard for life and welfare with what could be viewed as another callous disregard for life and welfare. In this context it invites the response “All lives matter” a response which in general context is often used to dismiss and hide reality.

    You and I may not have been that impacted by the physical and mental health and economic fallout from measures adopted (and adhered to carefully by most for months) to contain the outbreak in this country. We have come tantalisingly close to getting a stranglehold and to jeopardise this now won’t do anyone much good. There is still evidence of community transmission in NSW and Vic still it has become easy to be blasé here In Aus given the success of the measures adopted but there are chilling reminders like the double lung transplant for a 20-year-old in the US: She was otherwise healthy but her condition rapidly deteriorated after she was hospitalised in late April, and she developed issues with the heart, kidneys and liver, which were all beginning to fail.

    Last night thousands of fans sat glued to screens to watch the return of AFL but the first thing they saw was a powerful and moving display as all players ‘took the knee’ before commencement of play. There are other ways!

    But on the topic of nothing mattering but the message, are we all happy to see a march for refuges next Saturday, then perhaps one against domestic violence the following week, then one against jobseeker returning to normal …?

  20. My apologies but I omitted the most telling part of account of the double Lung transplant report:
    ‘ “ The 10-hour procedure was challenging because the virus had left her lungs full of holes and almost fused to the chest wall,” Dr Ankit Bharat, who performed the operation, said.‘

    To break down though, what I believe many people are saying: it is the METHOD, not the MESSAGE

  21. I feel so incredibly privileged to live on the Bunjalung land and what I saw last Saturday really cheered me up. So many came together to support our First Nation people in their struggle for justice.
    The thing that strikes me most about the First Nations’ people is how incredibly generous, kind and patient they are.
    The thing which upsets me most is how cruel and cynical the politics of race has been orchestrated by the Howard’s and the Pauline’s mob.
    Until their version of history is truthfully addressed the trauma of the first Nation shall go on. ?

  22. Food for thought.
    In October 1973, the US Justice Department brought charges against the Trump Management Corporation for discriminating against black Americans, claiming the family blocked them from renting units in their Queens ( NY) housing development.
    Woodie Guthrie was aware of this, after he signed a two year lease in 1950, prompting him to write the song “Old Man Trump” ,
    I suppose
    Old Man Trump knows
    Just how much
    Racial hate
    Be stirred up
    In the blood pot of human hearts.

    In 1927 Donald Trumps’ father Fred, (old man Trump), was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan march in Queens, for refusing to obey police orders and disperse.
    (Information taken from the book :
    1973, Rock at the Crossroads by Andrew Grant Jackson, available in the library).

    Love is the answer

  23. It’s hard to understand why the same people, who are so critical of those protesting, do not utter a word in protest about brutal racism in this country. Instead of vilifying the messengers it would be more helpful if they wrote to the PM complaining about the treatment of First Nations people. If millions of white people did so, the politicians would be concerned about votes and things would change very smartly, then there’d be no need for protests. Those who don’t act to change things are complicit in the treatment of First Nations People.

    Not a single word from those concerned about people protesting,about the treatment of Aboriginal Australians, who had done nothing wrong, being thrown into police cells and left to die while being mocked by police. (see The Saturday Paper 13/6) No checks on their welfare, or even basic first aid or medical help for them, let alone extensive surgery to save their lives. When families inquired about their welfare they were told their family member was ‘ok’, when in one case the person could have been dead for hours! Would people think this treatment appropriate for their family members? That’s what decent people call ‘callous disregard for life and welfare’.

    No concern about the shocking diseases, such as rheumatic fever, not seen in the white community, but endemic for Aboriginal people.

    It’s beyond comprehension that a wealthy country like Australia, with a health system which is the envy of the world, where (white) people are supposedly educated, is allowing the above to occur in the 21st century.

    We don’t have an Aboriginal problem in this country, but we clearly have a problem with privileged, ignorant white people.

  24. Geez Louise – you’re determined to see anyone who doesn’t see mass gatherings right now as a good idea (for anybody’s welfare but particularly those vulnerable to Covid-19 complications) as totally ignorant of and/or indifferent to the injustice of terra nullius and the myriad ways in which there are shameful gaps in the outcomes experienced by the First Nation people. Not big on subtleties? Even indigenous leaders have described the protest in a pandemic as a huge ethical dilemma. Are you sure that the entire indigenous population agrees with it?

    How do you know what any individual’s racial background is? How do you know what they have or have not done or not done to further the cause of justice. Some issues have complexities and seeing the world in black and white (no pun intended) is not useful or intelligent though it might make you feel virtuous.

  25. 5,000 to this rally is a huge turnout. History: Bob Bellear & Sol Bellear ex Mullum is a very informative read (net) in the history of Black Deaths in Custody and the tireless effort those indigenous brothers made for their people. My brother and I grew up with the Bellears, ( Russel, Terry, Joan, + more) 3 of us joined the Navy, then some went on to University. I still have the Mullumbimby Primary/High school photos should any relative want to get copies. Those Bellear brothers achieved so much, and were just so humble. Sadly, much of society makes judgement on a person’s character based upon merely, what they are, not who they are. My last fond memories of Bob was at a Brunswick SLSC fundraiser at Mullum RSL, then a chance meeting on the Lismore Court House steps, he was the defense Barrister and we were doing Commercial Law down at the NRCAE in Keen St.


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