Victoria Police has confirmed charges have remained in place against organisers of a Black Lives Matter rally in Naarm (Melbourne), one day after advising them the charges had been dropped.

Amangu Yamaji woman Crystal McKinnon and Gunai and Gunditjmara woman Meriki Onus were charged with breaching chief health officer directions over a protest organised in 2020.

Their lawyer, Ali Besiroglu, told The Age on Tuesday Victoria Police had advised them the charges would be withdrawn.

On Wednesday, a police spokesperson said a “miscommunication” by Victoria Police wrongly identified the matter would be withdrawn.

The protest organisers were fined $1,652 each for a rally against Aboriginal deaths in custody through Melbourne’s CBD in June 2020, and will appear in court this month to fight the charges.

In a statement issued before the police backflip on Wednesday, Ms McKinnon and Ms Onus said at the time of the rally in 2020, a significant number of Indigenous people had died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

“That number has only increased; the message is not getting through,” they said.

“The Victorian Government presents itself as a progressive government committed to addressing past and ongoing violence against First Nations peoples through various initiatives, while at the same time trying to silence the voices who have had enough of our people dying in custody and who demand change.”

More than 10,000 people gathered for the rally, to which no subsequent outbreaks of COVID-19 were linked.

At the time, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Nerita Waight said people should not be punished for exercising their right to free speech and assembly.