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Monday, August 7, 2000
Aborigines plan human chain near airport

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- An Aboriginal group has applied for police permission to march to Sydney Airport in the five days leading up to the Olympics, meaning international visitors could be greeted by sign-carrying protesters.

 The Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council also officially notified police it would like to march on the Sydney office of Prime Minister John Howard on Sept. 15, the day of the opening ceremony for the Sydney Games.

 Police said they will consider whether the proposed protests endanger public safety before deciding whether to grant approval. A police spokesman said Tuesday there was no timetable for deciding on the requests.

 If permission is granted for the airport march, protesters would peacefully greet visitors as they left the airport.

 "What we envisage here is a human chain along the roads nominated," the group said in a letter to police superintendent Roland Tisdale of the Sydney Olympic Park precinct.

 "There would be no disruption to passengers disembarking or traveling to the city from the airport or from the terminal, as we would not be near the terminal buildings -- only holding placards by the roadside," the petition said.

 Aboriginal leaders view the Olympics as a springboard to publicize their plight.

 Aborigines were Australia's original inhabitants, but now are a minority of 353,000 mostly impoverished people. They are beset by substance abuse, poor health and crime.

 The land council, known as Metro, is the designated protest leader for the 118 local Aboriginal land councils in the state of New South Wales -- of which Sydney is the major city. It does not speak for all Aborigines, some of whom have threatened more violent protests against the Olympics.

 Meanwhile, a group of Aborigines who have set up a tent city in Sydney's Victoria Park said Monday they hope to fill the downtown park with peaceful protesters during the Olympics. The tent city, formed near Sydney University about two weeks ago, has grown to about 25 tents.
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