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Melbourne anti-lockdown rally: Thousands flood CBD as 218 arrested and six police hospitalised

An anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne attended by more than 4,000 protesters turned violent when demonstrators clashed with police who were forced to use tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on the crowd, as smaller protests erupted in Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns.

The largest of the three ‘freedom’ rallies in Melbourne congregated on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke street in the CBD on Saturday morning and escalated during the afternoon despite Premier Dan Andrews saying the state is on the verge of a Covid catastrophe.

The Melbourne protests continued for several hours and at times the emboldened protesters appeared to outnumber police, breaking through police barricades.

By late afternoon six officers has been hospitalised – including two with suspected broken noses, one with a broken thumb and the others with concussions – and 218 protesters arrested.

Police issued 236 fines of at least $5,452 for breaching the CHO directions, and have three people in custody for assaulting police.

A protester (pictured) reacts from pepper spray used by police during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday

‘While there were some peaceful protestors in attendance, the majority of those who attended came with violence in mind,’ Victoria Police said in response to claims pepper ball rounds and OC foam canisters were fired at demonstrators.

‘The behaviour seen by police was so hostile and aggressive that they were left with no choice but to use all tactics available to them.’

Riot police (pictured) were out in force in Melbourne's CBD as the anti-lockdown demonstration turned ugly on Saturday

Riot police (pictured) were out in force in Melbourne’s CBD as the anti-lockdown demonstration turned ugly on Saturday

As the demonstration turned vicious, police in riot gear (pictured) were out in force across Melbourne's CBD

As the demonstration turned vicious, police in riot gear (pictured) were out in force across Melbourne’s CBD

Police arrest a protester (pictured) during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday, which quickly escalated

Police arrest a protester (pictured) during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday, which quickly escalated

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, scores of disbelieving Australians turned on anti-lockdown protestors who flooded capital cities on Saturday to voice their desire for ‘freedom.’  

Melbourne based doctor Dr Christian Karcher spoke for many when he tweeted ‘it is sickening to see this when 2 km away patients on ventilators fighting for their lives. Absolutely disgusted.’

Another said she ‘couldn’t believe what was unfolding’ in Melbourne, before labelling the score of protestors ‘selfish and moronic.’ 

A third frustrated Melbourne resident suggested ‘jailing all the protestors’ and to also deny them health care. 

Police formed a wall in front of the protestors - only to be overwhelmed by the mob in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday afternoon

Police formed a wall in front of the protestors – only to be overwhelmed by the mob in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday afternoon

Police were forced to use pepper spray (pictured) in Melbourne as the protest turned violent on Saturday

Police were forced to use pepper spray (pictured) in Melbourne as the protest turned violent on Saturday

Melbourne based Doctor Christian Karcher labelled the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday in Melbourne 'sickening'

Melbourne based Doctor Christian Karcher labelled the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday in Melbourne ‘sickening’

Melbourne's CBD became chaotic on Saturday as the anti-lockdown demonstration quickly took a wild turn

Melbourne’s CBD became chaotic on Saturday as the anti-lockdown demonstration quickly took a wild turn

Protestors clashed with police, with others labelling the lockdown a 'total government control of the people'

Protestors clashed with police, with others labelling the lockdown a ‘total government control of the people’

Up to 4000 protestors met on Saturday in Melbourne, with the demonstration soon taking a dark turn as tensions rose

Up to 4000 protestors met on Saturday in Melbourne, with the demonstration soon taking a dark turn as tensions rose

Twitter user Calliope Zac described protestors in Melbourne as 'selfish and moronic' before adding the situation was 'infuriating'

Twitter user Calliope Zac described protestors in Melbourne as ‘selfish and moronic’ before adding the situation was ‘infuriating’

The largest of the three ‘freedom’ rallies in Melbourne congregated on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke street in the CBD on Saturday morning and escalated during the afternoon despite Premier Dan Andrews saying the state is on the verge of a Covid catastrophe. 

Demonstrators reportedly combined to form the protest within ’10 seconds of meeting’ with around 700 police on the scene.

The Melbourne protests continued for several hours and at times the emboldened protesters appeared to outnumber officers, breaking through police barricades. 

A protester is overpowered by NSW Police on a day that anti-vaccine, Covid-denying and anti-government protests exploded across several cities, with Melbourne by far the worst affected

A protester is overpowered by NSW Police on a day that anti-vaccine, Covid-denying and anti-government protests exploded across several cities, with Melbourne by far the worst affected

Violent scenes have erupted during Melbourne's shameful anti-lockdown rallies as hundreds of protesters clash with police who were forced to use pepper spray

Violent scenes have erupted during Melbourne’s shameful anti-lockdown rallies as hundreds of protesters clash with police who were forced to use pepper spray

Heavily armed Victorian police entered the fray as Melbourne's wild anti-lockdown protests escalated on Saturday afternoon

Heavily armed Victorian police entered the fray as Melbourne’s wild anti-lockdown protests escalated on Saturday afternoon

Hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters flocked to Melbourne 's CBD on Saturday despite Premier Dan Andrews saying the state is on the verge of a Covid catastrophe

Hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters flocked to Melbourne ‘s CBD on Saturday despite Premier Dan Andrews saying the state is on the verge of a Covid catastrophe

NSW police (pictured) talking to a protestor not wearing a face mask at Broadway in Sydney's CBD on Saturday afternoon

NSW police (pictured) talking to a protestor not wearing a face mask at Broadway in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday afternoon

In Brisbane, the scenes were a little more subdued, with protestors of all ages (pictured above) expressing their lockdown views

In Brisbane, the scenes were a little more subdued, with protestors of all ages (pictured above) expressing their lockdown views

Residents in attendance were heard chanting ‘sack Dan Andrews’ while holding signs reading ‘vaccines kill’ and ‘open schools and parks now’. 

Men and women marched through the usually quiet locked down streets screaming and waving Eureka flags, a symbol commonly used by white supremacists.

As the Melbourne protests escalated the demonstrators shouted ‘Shame on you, shame on the lot of you’ at police and set off at least six flares.

Officers were forced to fire pellets and use pepper spray on protesters as scenes turned ugly, with multiple arrests carried out.

A desperate lockdown protester struggles as Victorian police restrain her during Melbourne's escalating protests on Saturday

A desperate lockdown protester struggles as Victorian police restrain her during Melbourne’s escalating protests on Saturday

Protesters appeared to outnumber police, with the emboldened demonstrators also pushing through police barricades at times

Protesters appeared to outnumber police, with the emboldened demonstrators also pushing through police barricades at times

Hundreds of Covidiots attended the rally in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday morning waving Eureka flags

Hundreds of Covidiots attended the rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday morning waving Eureka flags

Police hit protesters with pepper spray during the violent rally in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday in chaotic scenes

Police hit protesters with pepper spray during the violent rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday in chaotic scenes

Anti-lockdown protesters (pictured) gathered despite current Covid-19 restrictions prohibiting outdoor gatherings

Anti-lockdown protesters (pictured) gathered despite current Covid-19 restrictions prohibiting outdoor gatherings

The disgraceful scenes come after Victoria recorded 61 new Covid cases on Saturday – the highest daily figure since the mammoth 112-day lockdown last year. 

One resident in a CBD tower tipped water on the marchers below and a handful of construction workers yelled that the protesters were ‘idiots’.

As protests kicked off in several cities, the most surprising was in Cairns, where a crowd estimated at 700 ‘took over’ the Cairns Esplanade after being fired up by speeches in a cafe.

They shouted slogans against ‘government control’ and bore anti-vaccine messages.

No uniformed officers appeared to be present, the Cairns Post reported. 

In Sydney 1,500 officers were deployed on Saturday to stop a growing threat posed by protesters who wanted to march on the city’s worst day of the Covid pandemic – with 825 cases recorded.

The huge coordinated police presence and operation appeared to overwhelm protest efforts. 

Hundreds of Covidiots march through Melbourne to protest lockdowns despite 61 new cases being recorded on Saturday - the highest for the state since last year

Hundreds of Covidiots march through Melbourne to protest lockdowns despite 61 new cases being recorded on Saturday – the highest for the state since last year

Protesters (pictured above) held signs and climbed on top of tram stops in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday during the demonstration

Protesters (pictured above) held signs and climbed on top of tram stops in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday during the demonstration 

In Sydney taxi and rideshare services were shut out of the city between 9am and 3pm, with companies facing fines of up to half a million dollars if they take passengers to the CBD and surrounds.

Police also encircled the city with a giant exclusion zone featuring checkpoints and road blocks and also prevented trains from stopping in the CBD. 

A NSW Police spokeswoman said just before 1pm ‘there have been arrests in and around the city’. 

Scuffles broke out around Victoria Park, where one protest was due to begin, at the western edge of the CBD.

In Sydney police (pictured) began making arrests around midday as they stopped protest groups building any momentum

In Sydney police (pictured) began making arrests around midday as they stopped protest groups building any momentum

NSW Police questioned and detained people on foot and in their cars at major entry points to the city on Saturday

NSW Police questioned and detained people on foot and in their cars at major entry points to the city on Saturday

In Sydney, NSW Police sought to cut off protesters' access to the city with a giant exclusion zone encircling the city and stopping taxis and public transport services from delivering anyone to the CBD

In Sydney, NSW Police sought to cut off protesters’ access to the city with a giant exclusion zone encircling the city and stopping taxis and public transport services from delivering anyone to the CBD

Police broke up the group and blocked demonstrators, many of whom were maskless, from walking into the city.

Protestors who did make it into the CBD were moved on by police, with some wrestled to the ground by officers around Town Hall. 

It is understood the demonstrators quickly expressed frustration at the protest’s lack of leadership on encrypted messaging apps, the ABC reported.

‘Where are our leaders?!’ A protester wrote into a Sydney group.

‘Where the f*** are people who promised to lead it?’

A man expected to play a lead role in the Sydney protest, Anthony Khallouf, was jailed for eight months in the days before the action.

NSW Police issued warnings for several days on social media and backed up their promises with arrests in the CBD on Saturday

NSW Police issued warnings for several days on social media and backed up their promises with arrests in the CBD on Saturday

A heavy police presence in Sydney (pictured) appeared to stop protesters from gathering together although the numbers who arrived where smaller than in Melbourne

A heavy police presence in Sydney (pictured) appeared to stop protesters from gathering together although the numbers who arrived where smaller than in Melbourne

NSW Police dispersed protesters at one of Sydney's major anti-lockdown protests before it really started on Saturday afternoon

NSW Police dispersed protesters at one of Sydney’s major anti-lockdown protests before it really started on Saturday afternoon

The 29-year-old pleaded guilty to breaching public health orders after he was arrested at Hornsby train station in northern Sydney on Thursday afternoon.

One demonstrator called the march ‘an epic fail’. 

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens for a ‘Freedom Rally’ carrying placards with anti-vax messages with many stating that they believed Covid is a hoax.

The crowd chanted ‘they say wear a mask, we say no’ and ‘wake up Australia’ as they marched to Parliament House.

Several protesters acted aggressively towards local media shouting slogans about virus and vaccine ‘propaganda’.

In Brisbane, hundreds of anti-vax, Covid-denying protesters gathered at the Botanical Gardens and marched to Parliament House

In Brisbane, hundreds of anti-vax, Covid-denying protesters gathered at the Botanical Gardens and marched to Parliament House

Brisbane's protesters carried a wide array of conspiratorial messages about Covid, the government and vaccines as they marched through the city

Brisbane’s protesters carried a wide array of conspiratorial messages about Covid, the government and vaccines as they marched through the city

Brisbane's rally (pictured above) included plenty of extremist conspiracy theory messages - including comparisons to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler

Brisbane’s rally (pictured above) included plenty of extremist conspiracy theory messages – including comparisons to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler

One man carried a placard comparing Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with Adolf Hitler.

Others repeated baseless claims that vaccines were not safe for their children.

Queensland Police patrolled the protest but did not arrest any of the demonstrators.

Brisbane is not under stay-at home orders and the state currently has much lighter restrictions than residents in Melbourne and Sydney are ordered to observe.

In Brisbane around 1500 people (pictured) gathered for an anti-vax rally - although the city is not currently under lockdown

In Brisbane around 1500 people (pictured) gathered for an anti-vax rally – although the city is not currently under lockdown

Conspiracy theories including the groundless claim that Covid is a hoax were on show in Brisbane's protest on Saturday

Conspiracy theories including the groundless claim that Covid is a hoax were on show in Brisbane’s protest on Saturday

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Saturday morning police were fining people for being more than 5km from home even before the protest began. 

‘Please do not attend this demonstration, the risk of spread of the virus is significant,’ he said.

‘Every protester who we can identify and who we can apprehend will receive a $5,500 fine. It’s just ridiculous to think that people would be so selfish and come and do this.’ 

Ugly scenes quickly erupted as people clash with police in the heart of Melbourne CBD on Saturday from lunchtime

Ugly scenes quickly erupted as people clash with police in the heart of Melbourne CBD on Saturday from lunchtime

Footage posted on social media showed people cheering and letting off flares as well as police pepper-spraying protesters

Footage posted on social media showed people cheering and letting off flares as well as police pepper-spraying protesters

Violent scenes (pictured) erupted as scores of protesters angrily clashed with police in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday

Violent scenes (pictured) erupted as scores of protesters angrily clashed with police in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday

Protesters (pictured above) quickly fled the scene after being covered in pepper spray during violent anti-lockdown rallies

Protesters (pictured above) quickly fled the scene after being covered in pepper spray during violent anti-lockdown rallies

Covidiots were out in force as police pepper spray them in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday morning - multiple arrests followed

Covidiots were out in force as police pepper spray them in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday morning – multiple arrests followed

People resorted to blocking public transport routes (pictured) in the city during violent protests in Melbourne

People resorted to blocking public transport routes (pictured) in the city during violent protests in Melbourne

The freedom rallies on July 24 saw thousands of people across Sydney and Melbourne in anti-lockdown, anti-mask demonstrations that quickly turned violent.

More than 1,000 people marched through Melbourne’s CBD, lighting flares outside Victoria’s Parliament House.

Police formed a barrier on the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets where they held back the crowd chanting ‘you work for us’.

Mounted officers told the group to disperse with a number of protesters being detained.

‘Protest against this virus by staying at home, following the rules and getting out of lockdown,’ Dan Andrews said of the July protest. 

Authorities were expecting similar numbers on Saturday, with a lack of organisation in the group making it nearly impossible to predict how many.

‘Most of them are cleanskins, mum and dad types, hardworkers who are paying tax,’ police said.

‘The bulk of the group are really people trying to find a platform for their issues.’ 

Demonstrators reportedly combined to form the protest within 10 seconds of meeting, with a heavy police presence on the scene

Demonstrators reportedly combined to form the protest within 10 seconds of meeting, with a heavy police presence on the scene

People in attendance have been chanting 'sack Dan Andrews' while holding signs reading 'vaccines kill' and 'open schools and parks now'

People in attendance have been chanting ‘sack Dan Andrews’ while holding signs reading ‘vaccines kill’ and ‘open schools and parks now’

A man wearing a New Zealand shirt (pictured) screams in protest over current lockdowns in Australia

A man wearing a New Zealand shirt (pictured) screams in protest over current lockdowns in Australia

The crowd of mostly unmasked protesters (pictured above) moved through Melbourne's CBD on Saturday afternoon in large numbers

The crowd of mostly unmasked protesters (pictured above) moved through Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday afternoon in large numbers

A protester (pictured) was forced to wipe her eyes after being pepper sprayed on Saturday in Melbourne's CBD in chaotic scenes

A protester (pictured) was forced to wipe her eyes after being pepper sprayed on Saturday in Melbourne’s CBD in chaotic scenes

‘There will be a highly visible police presence in the Melbourne CBD, on the roads and across the public transport network on Saturday to ensure the community in complying with the chief health officer directions,’ Sergeant Megan Stefanec said in a statement.

‘Those who choose to blatantly disregard the CHOs directions and put the health and safety of all Victorians in jeopardy can expect to be held accountable.

‘It is very clear under the current CHO restrictions in Melbourne there are only five reasons to leave home, with a strong need to avoid public gatherings.

‘This includes activities such as public protests which are again not currently permitted.

‘The CHO restrictions also do not permit travel more than 5km from home, unless the travel is for a permitted reason.

‘Gathering in public with other people to stage a protest is not a permitted reason for leaving home.’ 

On Friday, Premier Andrews warned Victoria could ‘look like Sydney next weekend’ after the state recorded 55 new Covid-19 cases despite his hardline lockdown restrictions. 

On Saturday the state recorded 61 new cases. 

The thousand strong crowd of protesters outside Melbourne's iconic Flinder Streets station during last month's rallies (pictured)

The thousand strong crowd of protesters outside Melbourne’s iconic Flinder Streets station during last month’s rallies (pictured) 

Flares were let off in the streets of Melbourne as the frenzied crowd marched through the city's CBD during July 24's freedom rally

Flares were let off in the streets of Melbourne as the frenzied crowd marched through the city’s CBD during July 24’s freedom rally

'Protest against this virus by staying at home, following the rules and getting out of lockdown,' Dan Andrews said of the July protest

 ‘Protest against this virus by staying at home, following the rules and getting out of lockdown,’ Dan Andrews said of the July protest

He hit back at people criticising the strictness of Victoria’s sixth lockdown, including the unpopular decision to close all children’s playgrounds in Melbourne despite widespread backlash and no conclusive evidence of Delta transmission. 

‘The government is playing its part, we locked down early, we couldn’t have locked down any earlier,’ he said defiantly during Friday’s Covid briefing.

‘We went hard. I can’t be clearer with the people of Melbourne. 

‘If we have a weekend this weekend like we did last weekend, then next week we’ll look like Sydney. It’s as simple as that.’    

Regional Victoria is set to go back into lockdown and restrictions in Melbourne toughened even further to stop the spread of the city’s Delta outbreak, as former Premier Jeff Kennett claimed the state will stay shut down until 2022.

Mr Kennett said ‘well-placed’ food industry sources briefed on distribution disruptions by the state government warned him about the extended lockdown and tighter restrictions lasting into next year, The Herald Sun reported. 

Restrictions in Melbourne are set to be tightened on Saturday, and regional Victoria put back in lockdown

Restrictions in Melbourne are set to be tightened on Saturday, and regional Victoria put back in lockdown 

A new exposure site emerged at a machinery hire company in Bendigo (stock image), causing grave concerns the virus has leaked further into regional Victoria

A new exposure site emerged at a machinery hire company in Bendigo (stock image), causing grave concerns the virus has leaked further into regional Victoria

Premier Andrews held an urgent Cabinet meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss new rules which could include changes for childcare centres, tighter travel limits, shorter exercise times, a construction halt, and a ban on takeaway food and coffee.

An outbreak in Shepparton grew to 17 cases late on Friday and a new exposure site emerged at a machinery hire company in Bendigo, causing grave concerns the virus has leaked further into regional Victoria – just 11 days after lockdown was lifted for its residents. 

Mr Andrews was reportedly poised to announce the regional lockdown and new restrictions immediately, until deciding to wait for overnight case numbers on Saturday morning instead. 

But late on Friday evening the state government said it had told community sporting leagues in regional Victoria to ‘immediately cancel their activities for this weekend’.

‘The situation in Melbourne and across regional Victoria is extremely concerning,’ a spokesperson said.

‘Advice will be provided to government tomorrow morning and all options are on the table.’  

How Sydney police stopped Saturday’s lockdown protest

NSW Police stopped a demonstration numbers from growing at Victoria Park on the CBD’s western fringe and broke gatherings into smaller groups.

They used transport infrastructure to stop people entering the city via road and public transport routes.

Police encircled the city and with checkpoints on several major roads.

EXCLUSION ZONE BOUNDARIES:

  • Western boundary – West Link Road and The Crescent at Lilyfield
  • Southern boundary – South Dowling Street and Todman Avenue at Zetland
  • Northern boundary – Bradfield Highway at Milsons Point
  • Eastern boundary – New South Head Road and Ocean Avenue at Edgecliff

 POLICE PRESENCE ON ROADS AT:

  • Southern Cross Drive, Zetland 
  • Princes Highway, St Peters 
  • Sydney Park Road, St Peters 
  • Enmore Road, Enmore 
  • Oxford Street, Paddington
  • Parramatta Road, Annandale 
  • Victoria Road, Rozelle 
  • City West Link, Lilyfield 
  • The Crescent, Annandale 
  • Pacific Highway, St Leonards
  • Warringah Freeway, Cammeray

TAXIS ETC

Taxi, rideshare and passenger services banned from taking passengers into the Sydney CBD. until 3pm. 

 TRAINS SKIPPING

  • Redfern
  • Town Hall
  • Martin Place
  • Wynyard
  • Circular Quay
  • St James
  • Museum   




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