As thousands gather for anti-lockdown protests, chaos ensues
In the heart of Sydney, chaos reigned as anti-lockdown protesters, many of them maskless, took to the streets to protest COVID-19 restrictions, sparking police clashes and 57 arrests.
Thousands of people walked through Sydney’s central business district despite the city’s lockdown. Several protesters carried placards bearing anti-vaccine messages. Many did not appear to be wearing masks.
Police confirmed that 57 people were arrested and charged in connection with the Sydney protest, which violated public health orders. Over 90 citations have been issued.
Police Minister David Elliott announced the formation of a strike force of 22 detectives to track down 3500 “extremely selfish boofheads.” Additionally, he stated that anyone who attended the protest should be tested for COVID-19.
Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales, pledged in a statement that protesters who violated restrictions would face the full force of the law.
“I am utterly disgusted by the illegal protestors in the City today, whose self-centered actions have jeopardized our collective safety,” Ms Berejiklian stated.
“The protestors have demonstrated complete contempt for their fellow citizens who are currently going through a difficult time. “
I want to express my gratitude to the courageous police officers who risked their own safety to ensure the protest action ceased.”
Another rally took place in Melbourne, while a third took place in Brisbane.
At the Melbourne rally, police officers erected a barricade at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets.
Officers encircled the protesters and began detaining those who refused to leave.
In Sydney, protesters gathered at Victoria Park on the outskirts of the CBD and marched to Town Hall, led by police mounted on horses.
There was no social distancing and very little face concealment.
Before being arrested, a man dancing with lit batons was sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Protesters scaled shop awnings, burned what appeared to be an Australian flag, and chanted anti-government messages as police attempted to disperse the crowd.
NSW Police confirmed the arrests in a statement.
“Officers from across the Central Metropolitan Region were deployed, aided by specialized resources,” the statement reads.
“At this point in the operation, several people have been arrested. As attendees disperse, George Street will be used to facilitate exiting the city.”
Trains are still operating, police said, but some station entrances are blocked.
Once the crowd returned to Victoria Park, police issued a $1000 fine to anyone who did not leave and began making arrests.
Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd expressed “grave concern” that individuals were not wearing masks and physically separating themselves.
“If that occurs, there is a risk that COVID-19 will spread,” Professor Kidd explained.
“This is even more critical during this outbreak of the Delta variant than it was during similar protests last year.”
This endangers people’s lives.
According to NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, a lockdown protest in Sydney could be “disastrous.”
“I believe that now is not the time for people to come together closely and exercise what they believe is their democratic right,” he said.
“The New South Wales Police will work with the organisers and specific group leaders to ensure that they adhere to the public health orders and that we do not end up with a spreading event in Sydney, which would be disastrous.”
Meanwhile, nearly 250 people have been fined in NSW in the last 24 hours for violating COVID-19 lockdown rules.
The majority of fines issued yesterday were for people who flagrantly disobeyed the rules by hosting parties at their homes.
Eight people were fined $1000 after police were called to a party in Pyrmont.
Six individuals were fined at a birthday party in Riverwood, a neighborhood in the city’s south side.
Individuals are not permitted to invite anyone into their homes at all.
In Belmont, near Newcastle, where a maximum of five people are permitted in a home, ten people were fined for attending a party.
Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys of the NSW Police described the party hosts and guests as “extremely irresponsible.”
“People are organizing these events and inviting others to attend. They are aware that it violates the public health order,” he explained.
NSW Health Minister Hazzard, on the other hand, dismissed the idea of increasing fines to deter people, stating that officials are working with multi-cultural communities to spread the message.
“It is one of the great joys of this nation that we are a proud multicultural nation, but sometimes people who have come from other countries have suffered at the hands of other governments, and communicating effectively can be difficult,” he said.
“As a result, we need to find ways to continue working on this and get the messages out.”
“We really need our community, particularly in southwestern and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message, and to stay at home.
Additionally, 18 people who gathered in response to a family “tragedy” in Pendle Hill, Sydney, have been diagnosed with the virus.
It is unknown whether they were also fined.