‘F**k Australia…I hope it burns to the ground’: Meet the VERY outspoken woman leading controversial Black Lives Matter protest that could spark another coronavirus outbreak
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Tarneen Onus-Williams has been fighting off criticism since making the comments aged 24 during an ‘Invasion Day’ protest in 2018.
The controversial activist will be front and centre of the rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday, leading thousands on a march against systematic racism in the wake of George Floyd‘s death in the U.S.
Violent protests and looting erupted across the United States since Mr Floyd’s death at the hands of a white Minnesota Police officer on May 23.
More than 40,000 people have registered their interest to attend the protest in Melbourne in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ms Onus-Williams said ‘F**k Australia, hope it burns to the ground’ during the Australia Day protest two years ago.
She refused to apologise for her comments but later clarified it was a metaphor calling for the entire system to be dismantled and rebuilt.
The now 26-year-old Yigar Gunditjmara, Bindal Yorta Yorta woman has held her head high in the pursuit of cultural change for Aboriginal Australians despite ongoing attacks from critics.
She’s part of the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance Group which is organising rallies across Australia’s major cities in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The other two organisers for the Melbourne event are Meriki Onus and Crystal McKinnon.
The women are pushing ahead with the rally despite concerns from health authorities that a mass gathering like a public protest could cause another coronavirus outbreak.
Protesters are being urged to use hand sanitiser, wear face masks and stay home if they’re exhibiting signs of a cold or flu.
Ms Onus-Williams told the Herald Sun protesting is an ‘essential service’.
‘If Dan Andrews is worried about public health, what about the public health issue of Aboriginal people that die at the hands of racist policing,’ she said.
‘We see standing for the right to somebody’s life as an essential service.’
In an interview with ABC News this week the activist said they’d been working with health officials to try and manage any risks ahead of the rally.
One of the initiatives will involve giving out face masks and hand sanitiser to attendees.
‘We’re doing everything we can to manage any risk,’ she said. But she said she’d feel ‘pretty bad’ if the virus spread as a result of the protest.
Victoria police say they’ll be fining organisers of the Melbourne protest and will consider fining protesters if they deem they have breached health directives.
Deputy Commissioner Patton said they’ll be trying to work with organisers since they are planning to forge ahead with the event.
‘Clearly there are thousands of people who have registered interest in going tomorrow, we have been working with the organisers of this and told them we don’t want this to occur,’ he said.
‘If it does go ahead we will probably have to apply a lot of discretion because we can’t issues thousands and thousands of infringements to people.
Black Lives Matter protesters hold placards as they gather outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 05 June 2020
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians not to show up to the rallies this weekend.
‘Our message is very clear that the health risks of gathering in such large numbers and into close proximity are real,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments.’
The rally comes after new coronavirus hotspots emerged in Melbourne’s north and west,
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed some cases had spread through community transmission.
‘There is risk of transmission in the community and if you don’t have to do something, please don’t,’ he said.
‘From a public health perspective, it is not the time to be having large gatherings.’
National Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said any mass gathering like the protest could spark a significant outbreak.
‘One single, high-viral-load person can infect 30, 40, 50 other people,’ Dr Murphy said.
‘So you just need one person in a large gathering where people are packed together and moving around, and you can have a large infection. ‘