Australians across major cities on Saturday voiced their dissent against draconian government COVID-19 measures, with thousands of protesters in the cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide, taking to the streets in "Freedom Rally" demonstrations.
But heavy police presence, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney, resulted in some violent clashes and multiple arrests.
In Victoria state's capital, Melbourne, some 1,000 protesters gathered in various groups in the suburb of Richmond around midday, after the location was changed last minute to evade police.
Crowds chanted "no more lockdown” and "sack Dan Andrews," referring to the state's premier, while facing a line of police officers at the intersection of Church Street and Bridge Road.
Video on the day showed police spraying protesters with pepper spray, sometimes unprovoked. Protesters can also be seen throwing projectiles such as bottles at police officers.
Victoria Police arrested a total of 235 people on the day, with the vast majority of the charges for breaching health orders and some for assaulting police and riotous behaviour.
Ten officers were injured amid a number of brief clashes with protesters in Melbourne. Among them, six required hospitalisation, according to Victoria police.
No Large Gatherings in SydneyLarge gatherings in Sydney's CBD were non-existent amid heavy police presence in the city, which included riot squad officers, highway patrol, and detectives.
NSW Police had issued a warning on Friday threatening fines and arrests if anyone dared to participate in protests. On Saturday, about 1,700 police officers were deployed across the state—1,500 in metro Sydney, and 200 regional areas including Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Central Coast, Wollongong, and on the South Coast.
Thousands Gather in Brisbane, Adelaide, PerthIn Brisbane, Queensland's capital, thousands of people gathered in the city centre's Botanic gardens at midday before marching through the streets in a loud but peaceful fashion. Separate video footage showed protesters chanting "my body, my choice" as they proceeded down Brisbane's George street. The protest persisted until at least 3 p.m.
In Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, some hundreds of protesters gathered in Rundle Park to express dissent over government vaccine and mask mandates.
People held placards that expressed sentiments against vaccine mandates. One sign read, "Vaccine mandates violate human rights," while another read, "the final COVID variant is called communism," the outlet reported.
"You cannot comply your way out of tyranny," another sign read.