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Thousands of people protested against lockdown measures in Australia’s two largest cities on Saturday. Nearly sixty people have been arrested after violent clashes with police in Sydney.
There were clashes between police on horseback and protesters who threw flower pots and bottles, while residents were ordered to stay at home for a month to prevent a resumption of the covid-19 pandemic.
In Melbourne, thousands of people took to the streets after gathering outside the Victorian state parliament in the early hours, local media reported.
Protesters not wearing masks violated rules on non-essential travel and public gatherings issued by authorities, with the latter pointing out that the measures could apply until October.
“Wake up, Australia,” the placards read, with slogans echoing messages seen at similar demonstrations abroad.
Helicopters took to the streets of Sydney, home to five million people struggling to contain the pandemic recovery due to the Delta variant, while the state of New South Wales (which is the capital) recorded 163 new cases on Saturday – bringing the total number of infections currently to nearly 2,000.
About sixty arrests
Police said they had arrested about a hundred people, arrested 57 in Sydney and six in Melbourne. He pledged to protect” freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings, “believing Saturday’s demonstration violated”public health orders in force.”
“I am absolutely disgusted by the illegal protesters in the city today whose selfish actions have compromised our safety,” New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement. “Protesters have shown a total disregard for their fellow citizens who are currently struggling,” he added.
A team of investigators is looking into the footage with the intention of identifying and charging as many people as necessary in the coming days, N. J. said.S. W police minister David Elliott said.
“Unfortunately in Sydney today we saw the sorry sight we saw in other cities,” David Elliott told the media after the protest. “It’s clear Sydney is not safe from idiots,” he added, adding that he expected the rally to lead to an increase in covid-19 cases. He also urged those present to get tested and isolate themselves.
Sydney MP Stephen Jones condemned the protesters, calling them”selfish and irresponsible idiots.” “Nobody wants to be locked up. It’s how we prolong it, ” he said.
Only 11% of Australians were fully vaccinated
Organizers called the protest a rally for “freedom” and publicized it on social networks frequently used to spread misinformation about vaccines.
Australia, largely spared by the pandemic during its first wave, is now suffering from the highly contagious Delta variant and half of its 25 million people are confined in several cities.
Anger is growing in the country over the restrictions, which are often only partially met, and the Conservative government’s inability to adequately supply vaccines. Only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.