Invasion Day protest in Sydney set to go ahead despite coronavirus restrictions | Indigenous Australians

Indigenous organisers of an Invasion Day protest planned for Sydney on 26 January are vowing to press ahead with a Covid-safe march despite NSW Health restricting the number of people allowed to gather to 500.

The rally on Gadigal land was still scheduled to start at 9am on the public holiday from Djarrbarrgalli, or the Domain, organisers said on Wednesday.

NSW Health Covid-19 restrictions only allow up to 500 people to gather and so far 1,400 people have said on Facebook they would attend.

The organisers said the mass protest was too urgent not to proceed given the ongoing oppression facing First Nations communities.

They said there would be a Covid safety plan that would include ensuring participants wear masks and follow social distancing rules. The organisers argued protests should be allowed to proceed given crowds were allowed to gather at shopping centres, beaches and the recent cricket Test at the SCG.

“Unlike Covid, the virus of colonial racism that came to these lands in 1788 cannot be defeated by self-isolation or quarantine,” rally organiser Elizabeth Jarrett said in a statement. “We need to come together and fight back.”

The Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman said that throughout the pandemic Indigenous people were still “being locked up and killed and our children are being taken at ever-increasing rates”.

“We will not stop until our sovereignty is recognised and we see justice,” she said.

Organisers said the rally would demand the abolishment of Australia Day which marks the beginning of British colonialism through the arrival of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788.

The rally would also call for sovereignty not constitutional recognition and an end to killings in custody, the forced removal of children and the destruction of the land and the climate.

A spokeswoman for NSW police told Guardian Australia an application to hold a protest on 26 January had not yet been lodged. A NSW Health spokeswoman said outdoor protests could go ahead provided they complied with public health orders and they had a safety plan in place.

Other Australia Day events were likely to go ahead in New South Wales, despite the state being in what the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, called a “mopping up” stage of virus outbreaks in the northern beaches and western suburbs.

The Liberal leader was asked on Wednesday whether she was worried councils opposed to celebrating Australia Day on 26 January would cancel events, including citizenship ceremonies, under the cover of Covid-19. Berejiklian said people should “come together”.

“I want to see an Australia Day where all of us come together. It’s what we feel on the day that matters. I think we can all celebrate the day in a Covid-safe way.”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, cancelled Melbourne’s Australia Day parade due to the health advice stating it would not be safe as it was not a seated event. He also said Invasion Day protests should not go ahead.

“It’s not about what you’re gathering for, it’s about, are you gathering in a safe way?” Andrews said.

“It is not a seated event and judgment from public health team – not politicians – was it couldn’t be done safely.”

Instead a ticketed and seated Invasion Day dawn service in King’s Park was planned for 26 January.