Police arrest 235 people after violent Melbourne anti-lockdown rally

Clashes erupted between officers and protesters on Saturday after hundreds flocked to an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne in defiance of the public health orders.

Victoria Police officers used pepper spray on anti-lockdown protesters.

Victoria Police officers used pepper spray on anti-lockdown protesters. Source: AAP

Victoria Police have arrested 235 people and issued 193 fines following an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Saturday.

Victoria Police Commander Mark Galliott said police charged some protesters with criminal offences including riotous behaviour, assaulting police, and weapons and drug offences.  

Mr Galliott said 10 police officers were injured and six were taken to hospital.

Pepper spray is deployed as Victoria Police clash with protesters during a rally in Melbourne.
Source: AAP

He said three police officers remained in hospital with injuries that included torn muscles, a broken elbow, a broken nose, a broken finger and bruises.

Mr Galliott denied the protests were about freedom. He said those who attended were "angry, aggressive males" who were there to "take on and fight with police". 

“What we saw was policemen and women getting trampled, which they do not come to work for - they’re here to help them keep the community safe," he said.

His comments followed violent protests in which officers deployed pepper spray and restrained some protesters after clashes erupted between police and those attending the rally.

The protest kicked off at midday, with the crowd marching through Melbourne streets chanting: "sack (Premier) Dan Andrews", "free our children" and "no more lockdown."

One woman could be heard chanting "we are not communists" while other protesters told police "you serve us". 

The rally began relatively peacefully with protesters staging a sit-down protest.

This changed later in the day as protesters marched through streets, bringing some traffic to a temporary halt.

As police attempted to disperse protesters, some responded by throwing water bottles and projectiles at officers and shouting expletives, before being met with pepper spray.

On Friday, police warned they would be erecting a "ring of steel" in the city. In defiance of the warning, protesters changed their location, flocking to Richmond instead.

Police advised some 2,000 officers would be deployed in the CBD in the biggest operation in 20 years. 

Traffic was restricted in the CBD as police warned protesters against attending the unauthorised demonstration.

Anti-lockdown protesters clash with police in Melbourne

The protest came as the state recorded a record number of 535 local COVID-19 cases and one death

Melbourne's rally was part of a coordinated day of demonstrations against lockdowns, with protesters gathering in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Byron Bay.

In August, Melbourne saw a large and violent anti-lockdown protest that ended in the arrests of 218 people and the hospitalisation of six officers.

Mr Galliott said the measures taken by the police on Saturday meant that the anticipated 7,000 protesters ended up being between 500 and 700. 

"It is incredibly frustrating. It saddens me to see people acting that way towards police,"  he said condemning those charged with assaulting officers.  

He said while officers were forced to use pepper spray and batons, they did not employ other non-lethal methods used in August. 

He warned protesters against planning future demonstrations, saying planning is already underway to thwart any protest activity. 

"Doing this has not done anything to advance any cause (of freedom)... it is only as a community we can achieve results together." 

Published 18 September 2021 at 1:36pm, updated 18 September 2021 at 5:29pm
By Eden Gillespie
Source: SBS News