NSW Police have defended the use of capsicum spray on a group of people who allegedly acted aggressively after a protest in Sydney against racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Some 20,000 people joined the Black Lives Matter march in central Sydney on Saturday after the Court of Appeal declared it an authorised public assembly less than 15 minutes before it was due to begin.
NSW Police Acting Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the protest was mostly peaceful but expressed disappointment in the "aggressive" actions of some people after the rally.
"The fact there were a number of groups of individuals after the protest that chose to act unlawfully is disappointing to us," he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
"Police aren't punching bags and don't deserve to have this happen."
Protesters clashed briefly with police at Central Station after the main rally about 6pm and capsicum spray was deployed by officers after a group of people allegedly became aggressive.
Mr Lanyon said several people were "inciting" police and when officers tried to settle the situation, a 21-year-old man allegedly acted aggressively towards them.
Officers from the riot squad attempted to remove him and a struggle ensued, police said.
The man was arrested with police alleging the group became more aggressive prompting officers to deploy capsicum spray.
"I support the use of the capsicum spray and the way the police responded in order to ensure that there was no further violence," Mr Lanyon said.
"They acted professionally and took the appropriate action."
Five people were treated at the scene after being sprayed.
The 21-year-old Mt Druitt man was charged with offensive behaviour and resisting police.
He's been granted strict conditional bail to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on August 27.
In a separate incident, officers tasered a 23-year-old man at Town Hall railway station after he scuffled with a 15-year-old boy and allegedly became aggressive towards police on Saturday afternoon.
The 23-year-old has been charged with affray and was due to appear at Parramatta Bail Court later on Sunday.
The 15-year-old, who knew the older man, was given a caution.
Crowds also rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and some regional cities and towns in solidarity with US protesters angered by the death of African-American man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
They also wanted to highlight the high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody in Australia.
In Sydney, protesters waved signs saying "Police the police" and "Same s*** different soil", while the crowd chanted "I can't breathe", the final words uttered by Mr Floyd.
Demonstrators defied warnings from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia's chief medical officer not to protest, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Court of Appeal had on Saturday afternoon declared the Sydney rally an authorised public assembly, overturning a Supreme Court ruling on Friday night which had banned it because it breached coronavirus restrictions.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt hopes the Black Lives Matter rallies will not lead to a new wave of infections.
"If there is someone who is infectious in the midst of a crowd like that, that can have a catastrophic impact," Mr Hunt told ABC radio on Sunday.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann thought the protesters were "quite irresponsible".
"I think it is incredibly selfish, it is incredibly self-indulgent, and yes it does impose unnecessary and unacceptable risks on to the community," Senator Cormann told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.
Australian Associated Press