On his first morning in the role, Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack likened the United States’ recent Capitol Hill riots to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Speaking on ABC Radio National on Monday, McCormack was asked by presenter Sally Sara whether President Donald Trump should be removed before his term ends.
The question came in response to violent scenes at Capitol Hill which resulted in the death of five people and significant damage to government property.
Many members of Congress were inside the American House of Congress during the riot; Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a video to her Instagram after the event noting that many members of Congress were “nearly assassinated”.
Responding to the question, McCormack likened the riots to the Black Lives Matter protests.
“It is unfortunate that we have seen the events at Capitol Hill that we’ve seen in recent days, similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year,” McCormack said.
“These are unfortunate events and of course, many people don’t remember how you rode the horse; they remember how you dismount the horse.”
The Acting Prime Minister’s comments caused immediate controversy with many calling for an apology.
Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Lead Nolan Hunter condemned the Acting Prime Minister’s comments.
“The Acting Prime Minister must immediately withdraw his deeply offensive comments that compared the violent attacks on the US Capitol to the historic and important Black Lives Matters movement that swept the world last year,” he said in a statement.
“To call the Black Lives Matters movement ‘race riots’ proves that the Acting Prime Minister ignored the incredibly important message that it shared.”
“Here, Australians are sick of Indigenous lives not mattering like white lives, Australians are sick of Indigenous people dying younger than non-Indigenous Australians, Australians are sick of Indigenous people being locked up.
“Remember, since the 1991 Royal Commission there have been 441 Aboriginal deaths in custody. Black Lives Matter showed that all Australians no longer accept this.
“To call the Black Lives Matters movement ‘race riots’ also shows that the Acting Prime Minister ignored the hundreds of thousands of people who stood in solidarity, here and around the world, who want to make systemic racism a thing of the past.”
Hunter also called out the hypocrisy of the comments after the Government’s commitment to a Voice to Parliament.
“If it is the government’s line to dismiss Black Lives Matters as ‘race riots’ two days after proposing an ‘Indigenous Voice’, they clearly have much work to do to get onto the same page as the community,” he said.
The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) also responded to Minister McCormack’s comments.
“It’s a disappointment (to say the least) to see the Acting PM mischaracterise our fight for justice as ‘race riots’. Our demand that Black lives be valued and defended against State-sanctioned violence is in no way comparable to attempts to violently overthrow an election,” the organisation wrote on Twitter.
It’s a disappointment (to say the least) to see the Acting PM mischaracterise our fight for justice as “race riots”. Our demand that Black lives be valued and defended against state-sanctioned violence is in no way comparable to attempts to violently overthrow an election. https://t.co/XLFarPTnDQ
— Aboriginal Legal Service (@ALS_NSWACT) January 11, 2021
Arrernte writer Celeste Liddle echoed the ALS’ sentiments.
“I’m breaking my holiday posting to come and tell @M_McCormackMP to f**k right off. What an incredibly ignorant and racist thing to say,” she wrote.
“I can’t believe we need to explain this: BLM is not a “race riot”. Fighting for your life and liberty along with your right. To not be continually criminalised is not the same as a bunch of cosplay conspiracy theory fascists storming Capitol because they’re sad black ppl voted.”
I can’t believe we need to explain this: BLM is not a “race riot”. Fighting for your life and liberty along with your right to not be continually criminalised is not the same as a bunch of cosplay conspiracy theory fascists storming Capitol because they’re sad black ppl voted.
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) January 11, 2021
Despite backlash, Minister McCormack returned on Tuesday to stand by his comments.
“I know this is very difficult for the United States as it goes through great change … any form of protest, whether it’s a protest over racial riots or indeed what we’ve seen on Capitol Hill in recent days, is condemned and is abhorred,” he said appearing on the ABC.
“I appreciate that there are a lot of people out there who are being a bit bleeding heart about this and who are confecting outrage, but they should know those lives matter too.
“All lives matter. People shouldn’t have to go to a protest and lose their lives.”
This controversy follows Liberal Member for Hughes Craig Kelly releasing a Facebook post calling mandatory mask wearing child abuse.
By Rachael Knowles