Black Lives Matter march: Kiwis urged to wear masks at NZ protest events


Kiwis wanting to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States are urged to take precautions against coronavirus if taking part in events being held in New Zealand.

Riots erupted in the US after days of protests in the name of George Floyd, an African American man who died after being handcuffed and pleading for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck. The officer in question, Derek Chauvin​, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Protests have now spread worldwide and at least four events are planned in New Zealand today.

The events are likely to start at 3pm with a march at Christchurch’s Cathedral Square and Dunedin’s The Octagon. At 3.30pm, a march is scheduled to be held in central Auckland. That will be followed by a candlelit vigil at 6pm in Wellington.

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But Kiwi microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles said people coming together in large numbers and shouting or singing are the perfect combination for allowing Covid-19 to spread.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, an Auckland-based microbiologist, fears Covid-19 could be spread in protests if people do not take precautions.

Peter Meecham/Stuff

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, an Auckland-based microbiologist, fears Covid-19 could be spread in protests if people do not take precautions.

In a Twitter thread, Wiles encouraged people to minimise the risk by wearing a facemask and not attending if feeling even slightly unwell.

People could also show solidarity by staying at home and donating to an organisation like the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which pays bail for those who can’t afford it, or supporting New Zealand’s Arms Down movement, she said.

New Zealand has just one active case of coronavirus but wants to avoid a sudden spike of cases as lockdown restrictions are eased, as seen in countries like South Korea. Gatherings of more than 100 people are still banned.

‘GET UP AND MARCH WITH US’

New Zealand choreographer Parris Goebel is among those urging Kiwis to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

On her Instagram page, Goebel asked if Kiwis were “as frustrated and heartbroken as I am, meet me at Aotea Square tomorrow”.

“It is easy to sit back and watch all of this on your phone from the other side of the world, but will you get up and march with us?”

The Auckland march is planned to go from Aotea Square to the American embassy on Customs St, with the aim of putting pressure on government to “publicly condemn the acts of violence and state-sanctioned murder against African Americans in the United States”, organisers of the march said on its Facebook page.

More than 2000 people have registered an interest in attending.

Parris Goebel in Northern Uganda with World Vision and the 40 Hour Famine.

Not-For-Syndication

Parris Goebel in Northern Uganda with World Vision and the 40 Hour Famine.

Meanwhile, the Wellington vigil will focus on the “lives lost in America due to police brutality against black lives”, according to organiser’s Facebook event.

The event has changed from a march to the vigil, to support a more meaningful dialogue, organisers say. More than 3500 people have registered an interest in attending.