Thousands of people protested on Saturday against restrictions in Australia’s two largest cities. 60 of them were arrested after violent clashes with police in Sydney.
Clashes mounted police on horseback against protesters who threw flower pots and bottles as residents were ordered to stay home for a month to prevent a recurrence of the Covid 19 epidemic.
In Melbourne, local media reported that thousands of people had taken to the streets outside the Victorian state parliament in the afternoon.
The masked protesters violated the rules on non-essential trips and public meetings provided by the authorities, the latter indicating that the measures could apply until October.
The signs are “Wake up, Australia”, slogans echoing the news seen at similar demonstrations abroad.
Helicopters flew over the streets of Sydney, a city of five million people struggling to recover from an epidemic of delta variation, as the state of New South Wales (which is the capital) recorded 163 new cases on Saturday – bringing the total number of infections now to nearly 2,000.
About 100 people were fined and 57 were arrested in Sydney and six in Melbourne, police said. He said he defended “freedom of expression and peaceful meetings” and argued that Saturday ‘s protest violated “public health orders in force.”
“I am utterly disgusted by the illegal protesters in the city today, and its selfish activities have compromised the security of all of us,” New South Wales First Minister Gladys Perriglion said in a statement. “The protesters have shown complete contempt for their fellow citizens who are currently in pain,” he added.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott explained that the team of investigators was looking into the scenes in the coming days with the intention of identifying and charging as much as needed.
“Unfortunately today in Sydney we saw the saddest scene we have seen in other cities,” David Elliott told the media after the protest. “It is very clear that Sydney is not safe from idiots,” he added, adding that he expects the rally to lead to an increase in Covid 19 cases. He also demanded that those who were there be tested and self-isolated.
Sydney MP Stephen Jones denounced the protesters and called them “selfish and irresponsible idiots”. “No one wants to be locked out, that’s how we finally create it,” he said.
Only 11% of Australians were fully vaccinated
Organizers called the protest a “rally for freedom” and advertised it on social media, which is often used to spread misinformation about vaccines.
Australia, largely untouched by epidemics during its first waves, is now plagued by a highly contagious delta variation and half of its 25 million people are confined to multiple cities.
Anger is growing in the country over the restrictions, which are often only partially enforced, and about the Conservative government’s inability to provide adequate vaccines. Only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.