The demonstrations broke out on Saturday afternoon in the two major cities, with groups estimated in the hundreds protesting coronavirus lockdowns and curfew orders, chanting slogans and hoisting signs against the country’s Covid regime.
Footage making the rounds online showed crowds making their way through Melbourne, at some points clashing with a heavy police presence deployed to block the march. Pepper spray was unleashed on the demonstrators in response.
A number of arrests were also filmed in Sydney, where one man was heard screaming “why are you arresting me?” as he was hauled away by officers.Ahead of the marches, police declared a zero-tolerance policy for any protest in Sydney, with the New South Wales deputy police commissioner Mal Lanyon saying some 1,400 officers would be deployed for that purpose. Lanyon insisted “This is not about stopping free speech, this is about stopping the spread of the virus,” while the state’s police minister David Elliott warned protesters would face “the full force of the NSW police.”
In addition to the large police deployment, authorities also ordered rideshare services not to carry passengers into Sydney’s Central Business District, while trains will not make stops at some stations across the city, according to local reports. Police roadblocks were also seen in Sydney, an effort to close off major streets to protest marches.