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An Australian politician has sparked outrage by labelling George Floyd a “criminal and dangerous thug” while condemning the anti-racism protests touched off by his death in police custody.

Pauline Hanson, leader of the right wing One Nation party, addressed the Senate on Wednesday to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement.

More than 60,000 people across Australia joined demonstrations last weekend following the death of Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who was filmed gasping for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Sen. Hanson said: “George Floyd had been made out to be a martyr. This man has been in and out of prison numerous times. He was a criminal and a dangerous thug.”

In Australia, protesters have linked Mr Floyd’s death to the deaths of indigenous people in custody, with many holding signs and banners which read “It happens here too.”

At least 434 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in police custody in Australia since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report in 1991.

Sen. Hanson’s statement prompted backlash from commenters on her Facebook page. One man wrote: ‘Don’t speak for me when you say all Australians.”

The Black Lives Matter movement was first started in 2013 by three black women in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white man who shot black teenager Trayvon Martin dead in Florida.

Sen. Hanson, whose party has been embroiled in a number of racism scandals, added: “It sickened me to see people holding up signs saying ‘black lives matter’ in memory of this American criminal.

“I’m sorry, but all lives matter…we cannot allow bleeding hearts and those on the left to destroy the fabric of our society and our freedom.

“No one could possibly condone the way in which George Floyd died. But what upsets me is the attitude of many people – black and white.”

Hanson went on to express her anger that Australians did not show the same outrage at the death of Justine Damond – a white Australian woman who was shot dead by a black officer, also in Minneapolis, in 2017.

A fence surrounding the White House after large peaceful protests the day before against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd (Reuters)

She also said politicians should “hang their heads in shame” for not speaking up about the health risks of the protests, which defied ongoing warnings for people not to gather in large groups due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

“It’s a grave insult to all law-abiding Australians. These activists should never have been allowed to march and call Australians racist,” she said.

“Shame on the politicians who were too gutless and too scared of losing votes to stand up to the mob.

“People are furious and I don’t blame them. They want to know how this happened when our pubs, clubs and gyms and businesses are still crippled by the full force of COVID-19 restrictions.”