Covid 19 Australia: Anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne kick off

Anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are getting heated as police work to keep crowds under control and calm.

Victoria Police has already been forced to use capsicum spray on protesters after hundreds flooded the streets in Richmond.

Protesters changed their meeting point to Richmond, 20 minutes out of the CBD, after police set up a ring of steel around the centre of Melbourne.

Things are also kicking off in Brisbane, where a journalist from Channel 10 filmed protesters shouting at police and abusing reporters.

In Sydney, a handful of people have already been arrested.

Police rushed to Bass Hill Plaza, in Sydney’s west, after reports of a protest there.

A young woman was seen arguing with officers before she was asked to get into the police van.

And in Sydney Park, in Sydney’s inner west, dozens of police wandered through the popular recreation area to arrest a handful of people.

NSW Police earlier said it would be out in force today in response to planned unauthorised anti-lockdown protest activity in the Sydney CBD.

NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott warned anyone thinking of protesting this weekend to stay at home, and not come into the city.

“There is no doubt that these protests are a risk to public health – for the community, for police as well as for the individual health of the protesters themselves,” Elliott said.

“We’ve seen past protesters end up contracting Covid-19, so anyone who is still considering protesting needs take a good hard look at themselves.”

In Victoria, Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said earlier this week that police were taking no chances after the violent protests in August.

“Anyone who’s planning to come in, it is an illegal gathering and we’ll be doing everything we can to prevent that gathering,” he said. “We’ll be doing everything we can to prevent access to the city.”

A similar protest last month drew more than 4000 people in the Melbourne CBDand was marred with violence as police and demonstrators clashed.

Nine police officers were hospitalised due to injuries, with the force’s top brass branding it one of the most violent demonstrations in 20 years.

Specialist police donned in full riot gear and holding ballistic shields were forced to fire pepper ball rounds on demonstrators as they charged officers and breached the police line.

“We saw a convergence of people who were placing others at risk of potentially contracting the coronavirus,” Patton said. “With the new Delta strain, the risk is exacerbated significantly. We can’t allow that to occur again.”

Today’s protests come as Covid-19 outbreaks continue to worsen in NSW and Victoria.

In NSW, 1331 new local cases and six deaths were recorded today. In Victoria, 535 new local cases and one death were recorded.

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