Thousands of protesters have marched on the streets of Sydney, and other Australian cities, against the latest round of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions – despite a surge in cases.
The maskless group walked between central Sydney’s Victoria Park and Town Hall, carrying signs demanding “freedom” and “the truth”.
Mounted officers and riot police oversaw the COVID-19 protests, which has earlier been designated as an unauthorised protest.
Police say a number of arrests were made, with pictures showing demonstrators on the floor being handcuffed by officers.
New South Wales (NSW) police said while it recognised and supported the right to free speech and peaceful protest, the march was a breach of public health rules, with the force saying: “The priority… is always the safety of the wider community.”
The march came amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in NSW, with a record 163 positive tests in the latest 24-hour period.
Continuing lockdown restrictions were imposed on Greater Sydney four weeks ago, with the public only allowed to leave their property with a reasonable excuse.
State health minister Brad Hazzard said: “We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest… but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”
Elsewhere in Melbourne, thousands more headed to the downtown area of the city, chanting for “freedom”, with some lighting flares outside the Victoria state’s Parliament House in the city.
Some displayed banners, including one which said: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”
Police had warned people in Adelaide against forming a car protest in the city, saying if it went ahead, they would make arrests.
Just over 15% of Australia’s population aged 16 and above had been given both COVID-19 jabs by Friday, figures show.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We’ve turned the corner, we’ve got it sorted. We’re hitting the marks that we need to make, a million doses a week are now being delivered.
“We are well on our way to where we want to be by the end of the year and potentially sooner than that.”