Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders

Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders
Police detain a protester at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market during a rally amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2020

Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders

Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders
  • Demonstrators ignore official warnings and gather at Queen Victoria Market

MELBOURNE: Authorities in Melbourne arrested more than 70 people for flouting stay-at-home orders to protest against lockdown restrictions Sunday, with some demonstrators clashing with riot police at a market in the city.
About 250 people attended the illegal protest — the second in as many days in the city— promoted by coronavirus conspiracy groups on social media.
The demonstrators ignored official warnings and public health orders to gather at the central Queen Victoria Market, calling for an end to a weeks-long lockdown of Australia’s second-biggest city.
They were met by a heavy police presence, with scuffles breaking out as the riot squad swept through market’s fruit and vegetable aisles.
Police arrested 74 people and fined 176, saying in a statement that “many protesters were aggressive and threatened violence toward officers.”
One man believed to be a “primary agitator” is facing charges of incitement while another was charged with assaulting police, according to the statement.
Last weekend, “Freedom Day” events were held across Australia to protest what some labelled the government’s “overblown” response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 900,000 people worldwide.

BACKGROUND

Australia has recorded more than 26,600 cases and 810 deaths in a population of 25 million, the vast majority in Melbourne and its surrounds.

The latest rallies come ahead of the gradual easing of virus restrictions in Melbourne, with daily outdoor exercise increased to two hours and small “social bubbles” allowed for people living alone from Monday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who has previously branded the protesters “selfish,” said on Sunday the state could not afford to reopen too quickly.
“No one is enjoying the reality we face, but none of us have the option of ignoring the reality that we face,” he said.
“We cannot open up now and stay open. It would not be safe, it would not be smart.”
An overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a limit on traveling more than 5 km are set to remain in place across Melbourne until Oct. 26.
Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, allowing other regions to roll back restrictions.
The nation has recorded more than 26,600 cases and 810 deaths in a population of 25 million, the vast majority in Melbourne and its surrounds.


Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park

Updated 02 December 2020

Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park

Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park
  • In 2018, Pygmies began to move onto land inside the perimeter of Kahuzi-Biega National Park and started to cut down trees, mainly to make charcoal
  • According to park authorities, Pygmies have destroyed vast acres of woodland — an act of deforestation that gnaws away at the habitat of endangered gorillas

BUKAVU, DR Congo: Three Pygmies and a soldier were killed in clashes near DR Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park, military sources and local officials said Wednesday, as calls grow for protection of the country’s indigenous peoples.
The national park, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Monday, is a haven for critically endangered gorillas but faces an emerging threat from a conflict between rangers and local Pygmies, who claim they were robbed of ancestral lands when the park was extended in the 1970s.
The central African country’s parliament is currently considering a law to guarantee the rights of Pygmies.
Clashes erupted on Monday in the nearby village of Kabamba in South Kivu province, military sources and the territory’s administrator Thadee Miderho said Wednesday.
In addition to the four killed, others were wounded, they said.
The Pygmies wanted to retrieve bags of charcoal seized by the military, according to Miderho.
In 2018, Pygmies began to move onto land inside the park’s perimeter and started to cut down trees, mainly to make charcoal.
According to park authorities, Pygmies have destroyed vast acres of woodland — an act of deforestation that gnaws away at the gorillas’ habitat.
Their return led to open conflict between Pygmies and rangers in which people on both sides have been killed.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park celebrated 50 years of existence on Monday, priding itself as “a sanctuary and refuge” of eastern lowland gorillas.
Meanwhile a civil society group in the territory of Kabare wrote an open letter to UNESCO asking for it to help “save” the Pygmies.
“Fifty years later, the existence of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park = 50 years of suffering of our Pygmies brothers and sisters,” the group wrote.
In the capital Kinshasa, the National Assembly passed a bill on November 26 for the “protection and promotion of the rights of the indigenous Pygmy peoples,” which will now be considered by the Senate.
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, unlike other indigenous ethnic groups, the Pygmies have not always received special attention as an indigenous group,” parliament acknowledged in a memorandum.
The proposed law guarantees the recognition of the culture of the Pygmies, easy access to justice and social services, and “full access to the land.”