RSL Australia president Greg Melick said the protesters who burned the flag and campaigned against the monarchy on the National Day of Mourning were respecting servicemen who fought to defend the nation.
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia was patron of the RSL for more than 70 years and Australians, including First Nations people, have fought and died under the Australian national flag for decades,” he said.
“Both Her Majesty and our national flag are entitled to and deserve the utmost respect.
“The actions of protesters yesterday were deplorable and disgraced Australian servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”
The thousands of protesters who thronged Australian cities had called for an end to Indigenous deaths in custody and pointed to disparities in reporting on issues facing First Nations Australians in relation to the Queen’s death.
Some First Nations people have called for the monarchy to be abolished, debating the role it played in the colonization of Australia and the treatment of Indigenous peoples.
“While they mourn the Queen, we mourn everything her regime stole from us: our children, our country, the lives of our loved ones, our sacred sites, our history,” said Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, who organized the protests.
“Today is about reflecting on the pain and trauma that the monarchy has bought to our country,” a protester in Melbourne told 9News.
“When will anyone mourn the deaths we lost…all…my ancestors…who mourns?”
Protests took place in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra.
At one point, protesters poured red paint on the Australian flag, their hands and the outside of the British consulate office.
“We’ve been asking for a day of mourning since they made January 26 the so-called Australia Day. But eight hours after the Queen’s death, they can make this day a day of mourning,” First Nations woman Sarabi Gristwood told 9News in Sydney.