Sydney anti-lockdown protest fizzles out as police arrest 32 people

Police said their operation worked like a "well-oiled machine" to prevent large-scale protest activity.

Police take a man for questioning ahead of a planned protest at Sydney Park in Sydney.

Police take a man for questioning ahead of a planned protest at Sydney Park in Sydney. Source: AAP

New South Wales Police arrested 32 people and issued 265 fines in a large-scale operation that limited anti-lockdown protest activity in Sydney. 

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell said officers had been monitoring online social media channels for protest activity and were well prepared. 

"A well-oiled machine is pretty well right. That was the aim - to stop the protest going ahead and we were successful in achieving that outcome."

Assistant Commissioner Thurtell said in metropolitan Sydney, there were 232 arrests and 20 fines issued. A number of fines involved people who sought to attend the protest by travelling on the train network. 

"Our prevention strategy has been targeted towards people who were intent on protest activity," he said. 

"Some of the protesters have changed their minds (on attending) after what happened on the 24 July. They saw that not only was it enforced on the day, but there was also follow up."

Large numbers of police were deployed throughout the city and were seen moving would-be demonstrators along from public areas. 

More than 1,700 police were involved in the operation across the state, including members of the police riot squad, the transport command unit, police helicopters and officers mounted on horseback. 

Around 1,500 officers were deployed across the Sydney area, with 200 in regional locations such as Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Central Coast, Wollongong and on the South Coast.

The Sydney CBD is seen at police officers patrol Sydney Park in order to prevent an anti-lockdown protest.
Source: AAP

There was no evidence of large-scale protests anywhere in the city, and eyewitnesses in the CBD said police had arrested a small number of people who had attempted to protest by early afternoon. 

The same could not be said for Melbourne, where police unleashed capsicum spray on hundreds of protesters who defied the city's stay at home order.

Earlier, NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott warned the would-be demonstrators to stay home.

“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,” Mr 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.”

Police apprehend a man ahead of a planned protest at Sydney Park.
Source: AAP

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the operation was launched in response to social media posts about the protests, as has happened on multiple occasions throughout the state's three-month-long lockdown.

“We are continuing to monitor online commentary ... and have put in place an extremely mobile police operation with significant resources, to respond to whatever situation we are faced with," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Thurtell said police officers would be monitoring for any potential protest activity on Sunday.

"The NSW Police force will continue to enforce the public health orders."

Published 18 September 2021 at 2:46pm, updated 18 September 2021 at 4:40pm
By Claudia Farhart
Source: SBS News