A Mandurah woman has spoken of her experience with protests in the United States and of her life at sea amid the Coronavirus outbreak.
Madora Bay resident Lili Hanley is one of the few Australians out of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic and strict travel restrictions.
The former Meadow Springs Subway employee was working her full-time stewardess job on luxury superyachts when the virus broke out.
The 21-year-old told Skeer Media she was working in the Bahamas when the pandemic took hold and sent countries into lockdown.
“I never felt scared, having been already isolated with no contact to the outside world,” she said.
“It didn’t necessarily change my work but it changed the boats itinerary, as we were unable to enter certain countries.
“I didn’t really hear much about how the virus was affecting Australia until I spoke to my family, they seemed calm about the situation but said it was quite bad.”
Now, on a month’s annual leave, Miss Hanley said she decided not to return home for quarantine reasons and instead, chose to explore the United States with colleagues.
“I visited home last November for a month,” she said.
“We understood anywhere we’d go was going to be affected by COVID-19, so we basically just decided to travel around the US.”
What the stewardess and her colleagues didn’t know is that they would get caught up in some of the biggest protests and riots in American history.
The demonstrations come after unarmed African American black man George Floyd was killed when a white police officer kneeled on his kneck during an arrest last month.
Vision of the 46-year-old gasping for air surfaced online which sparked fury and outrage resulting in protests and demonstrations in all 50 American states and now, across the globe.
Miss Hanley, like many others, said she watched the video on Facebook and found it absolutely “disgusting.”
The Mandurah woman found herself in Beverly Hills Los Angeles the day the Californian National Guard was deployed and the city’s mayor Eric Garcetti implemented a curfew.
Miss Hanley said the protests she came across during the day were harmless until the curfew was put in place.
“My friend and I were driving around trying to find a mall and ended upright in the middle of it, at this point, it was just harmless protesting, which was quite amazing to see,” she said.
“Unfortunately, later that night, it turned violent. I got a safety alert on my phone saying the whole city of LA will have an 8pm curfew.”
Miss Hanley said staff at her LA hotel were on edge after protesters smashed the accommodation’s restaurant window.
“The hotel staff had barricaded the main entrance with couches, chairs and a table,” she said.
“I personally felt safe in my room, though the staff were definitely worried.
“We weren’t allowed out, so [we] decided to order uber eats, which took nearly two hours to arrive.
“When it did, my friend went downstairs to the lobby to pick it up, but she wasn’t allowed outside, not even just to the curb.”
Miss Hanley said she didn’t see why the protests turned violent, however, she read on social media that police shot rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators which is why they turned into riots.
“I watched it all live on the news that night, was quite devastating seeing how violent a peaceful protest turned,” Miss Hanley said.
“We headed to Las Vegas the day after the big riot broke out in LA, there was a lot of destruction [and] a lot of graffiti.
“Once we got to Las Vegas, there were big protests going on there as well.”
The Madora Bay woman explained that she felt safe witnessing the protests as she travelled through several cities including Arizona, Calfornia, Sand Diago, Los Angeles and then Las Vagas.
“I don’t know what they are saying about it all in Australia, but it’s a very big issue over here, one that has been going on for years and years obviously, and people are just fed up with it and trying to make the change,” Miss Hanley said.
“It’s difficult because the Media can choose what they want people to see, so who really knows what they are hiding from their viewers.
“I’m not that educated on the situation, but this is just from what I’ve seen.”
The police officers involve in George Floyd’s death have all been charged and the matter is now before the courts.
Some of the more violent protests have seen more than 13 killed, hundreds of citizens injured, including children and the elderly, and thousands arrested.
At times, American Law Enforcement and demonstrators have been caught on camera attacking media covering the situation.
One video shows an Australian cameraman and journalist attacked by riot police, while another, shows a Nine News correspondent attacked live on air by protesters in London.
Multiple businesses and property in LA have also been trashed and looted as demonstrators take to the streets as they protest against injustice and police brutality.
The Minneapolis Police Station was also destroyed entirely while other buildings and police cars were set alight.
The Black Lives Matter movement has now gained momentum worldwide with millions of demonstrators flocking to major cities across the globe to protest justice for Floyd.
Since the movement, videos have emerged online of racism and white police officers in the US racially profiling black citizens.
Last Tuesday, Instagram users shared a picture of a black square as a symbol of support for the movement and the situation in the US.
In Australia, thousands ignored COVID-19 social distancing regulations as they flocked to cities across the country, including the Perth CBD, to stand in solidarity with American protesters.
The movement made its way to Mandurah with Peel residents gathering at the Mandurah Foreshore for a peaceful demonstration.
In Perth, thousands are expected to rally at Langley Park at the weekend, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest the mistreatment of Australia’s Indigenous people.
Authorities and the WA Premier Mark McGowan have urged people not to attend the rally over coronavirus and social distancing fears.
According to the AAP, WA’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said he was worried those considered more vulnerable would travel from the regions and potentially become exposed.
Australian woman Lili Hanley will head to Italy with hopes to return home in October.