Hundreds of protesters calling for an end to Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown have clashed with police in Melbourne.
- Anti-lockdown protesters and police have clashed near Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
- Police arrested 16 demonstrators and issued 96 penalty notices for a range of offences
- Premier Daniel Andrews said protests were “unhelpful” and “selfish”
Police used pepper spray during scuffles with some of the demonstrators — many of whom refused to wear masks — at the Shrine of Remembrance.
Police arrested 16 people and issued 96 penalty notices for offences including not wearing a mask, breaching public gathering directions, travelling more than 25 kilometres from home, assaulting police and failing to state their name and address.
“Victoria Police was extremely disappointed to yet again arrest a large number of protestors who showed a complete disregard for the safety of the broader community and the directions of the Chief Health Officer (CHO),” police said in a statement.
Police describe protesters as ‘selfish’
Police said they were investigating an incident where several police horses were hit in the face with a flagpole by a man.
“Thankfully the horses were not injured during the assaults,” the police statement said.
Officers are also investigating damage to a police van after it was pelted with items thrown by protesters.
Three police officers were injured, with one taken to hospital as a precaution.
“Victoria Police will not accept the selfish behaviour of those who continue to breach the CHO directions,” the police statement said.
About 200 to 300 people were estimated to have attended the rally, making it one of the larger events of its kind over the past few months against Premier Daniel Andrews’s tough measures to control COVID-19 infections.
Protesters in the Shrine forecourt held placards with slogans such as “media is the virus”, “COVID-19 is a scam” and “wake up Aussies”.
Some were wearing t-shirts that said “let Victoria work”.
Many people pulled their face masks under their chin or were not wearing them at all.
Officers surrounded the protesters on foot, with more forming an outer wall, and many were on horseback.
Protesters could face two separate fines for attending the rally at the Shrine of Remembrance.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius warned that protesters could fall foul of legislation governing behaviour at the Shrine.
While some lockdown rules have been eased this week, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25 kms from their homes and are not permitted to have visitors to their home, except for permitted reasons.
They also can be fined if they gather in groups of more than 10 from more than two households, and must wear masks as well as social distance.
Premier calls protesters ‘selfish’
Earlier, when asked about the demonstration at his daily press conference, the Premier said the protest was unhelpful.
“Protests are not safe. Protests are selfish,” Mr Andrews said.
“Protests are potentially very dangerous to the strategy we have in place.
“We want to get the place open and make announcements on Sunday, and if people are out protesting, that does not help.
“I think common decency would see people only go to the Shrine when they wanted to remember and to appropriately commemorate the sacrifice of hundred of thousands of others.
That is what the Shrine is about — it is not about making political points one way or the other.”
There were scuffles and several arrests last month as police broke up a protest at the Shrine.
A website for the protest tells participants: “Daniel Andrews must resign and lockdowns must end. Restore our freedoms now.”