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Indigenous MP Says Australia Day Flag Burning Hijacked An Important Message

A Sydney protest turned violent when police swooped on a man attempting to set an Australian flag on fire.

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BuzzFeed News captured footage of the moment the Sydney march turned violent, when an Indigenous metal singer tried to set the Australian flag alight before being rushed by police officers.

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Labor's Linda Burney said the attempted flag burning had undermined the "change the date" movement and distorted media coverage of the of an otherwise peaceful rally.

"I see no point in setting flags alight because invariably it's counter productive," Burney told BuzzFed News.

"You can make your point and make your point well without destroying property."

Thousands of people attended rallies across the country to stand for Indigenous rights and call for Australia Day to be moved from January 26, which marks the day in 1788 that Australia was declared British territory.

Look at this incredible crowd in Melbourne. The atmosphere is electric. Feel free to use this photo.

Burney also hit back at media coverage of the day's rallies and marches, such as The Daily Telegraph's report, which referred to attendees as "left-wing parasites".

"That march yesterday was important and making an important point and all of that was undermined by the incident of burning the flag at the end of the rally."

"If that had not happened, there were thousands of people saying very clearly to the Australian people that there is an argument and wide support for Indigenous rights and a date change."

"The focus wasn’t on that... the focus is on someone setting a flag alight."

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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