Thousands protest Australia Day celebrations

Tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets to protest a contentious national holiday that also marks the arrival of European colonists more than 200 years ago.

In Sydney, Melbourne and several other cities, thousands of “Invasion Day” protesters on Friday demanded that the date of the annual Australia Day celebrations be changed.

The public holiday is held on January 26 every year.

For most Australians, it is synonymous with a day off work, a barbecue, Test match cricket, a trip to the beach and the end of the summer holidays.

But the choice of date, which marks the arrival of European settlers at Sydney Harbour in 1788, has become increasingly contentious.

Indigenous activists say the arrival of Europeans heralded the start of a centuries-long campaign of cultural genocide.

In sweltering Sydney, protesters braved 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) heat and the ferocious southern sun to wave black, red and yellow Aboriginal flags and chant that the land “always was, always will be” Indigenous.

A banner read “No pride in Australia’s genocide”.

On the eve of Australia Day, a statue of Captain James Cook, who mapped the coast around Sydney in the 18th century and first claimed the territory for Britain, was sawn off at the ankles, while a monument to Queen Victoria was doused in red paint.

Polls show a majority of Australians want to keep the public holiday, but are split roughly 50-50 about changing the date.

Just under 4 percent of Australia’s 26 million people are Indigenous.

Source: Thanks AlJazeera.com