Melbourne anti-lockdown protests: dozens arrested in violent clashes with police | Melbourne

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Dozens of people have been arrested at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and Albert Park after hundreds of protesters defied the city’s stage-four lockdowns to hold an anti-lockdown rally on Saturday.

Organised by a broad coalition of online groups linked by a mish-mash of conspiracy theories, Saturday’s protest was planned in defiance of lockdown restrictions, mandates on mask-wearing in Victoria, 5G, vaccinations and “child trafficking and pedophilia”.

Victoria police took a hardline approach to the protests in the lead-up to Saturday, charging five people with incitement for their alleged involvement in organising the protest.

Among them was Fanos Panayides, a prominent member of Australia’s conspiracy movement and one of the organisers of a similar protest held in Melbourne in May.

Another, James Bartolo, who runs conspiracy website The Conscious Truth Network, posted footage of his arrest online on Saturday.

“Woke up this morning, jumped on the dunny, heard some knocks on the door,” Bartolo wrote on social media. “It was all the cops, they broke down the door, arrested me, they took computers, laptops [and my] phone.

“It is a bit of a pain in the ass. They stole my shit. Whatever. I’m fine.”

The arrests prompted wide-spread confusion among followers in the lead-up to the protest. After he was charged, Bartolo told supporters to not attend the rally because he believed it was “a trap”.

Anti-lockdown protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
Anti-lockdown protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

“It is the worst possible thing to do. It is a set-up from the get go. It is all just terrible.”

That confusion appears to have prompted many to stay away from the protest. On encrypted messaging services on Saturday morning, supporters were divided about whether the protest should be cancelled, and attendance in Melbourne was well below what organisers had hoped for.

Nonetheless, footage from the Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday morning showed at least a few hundred protesters, many not wearing masks, chanting “freedom” and hurling abuse at police and media.

A large contingent of riot police and mounted officers clashed with protesters in intermittent melees. Officers were punched by one man before he was fitted with a mask and placed in handcuffs. While Victoria police had not released arrest numbers early on Saturday afternoon, footage showed dozens of people being detained.

After mounted officers drove protesters from the Shrine of Remembrance, footage online showed streams of protesters marching to Albert Park.

Once there, a large police contingent, including officers from the public order response team, surrounded small groups of protesters, arresting them one by one.

In one small group, protesters, some holding QAnon signs, called for officers to “stand with us” and threatened to sue police because they were “protected by the Australian constitution”.

Earlier, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, labelled the protestors “selfish”.

“It is not smart, it is not safe, it is not lawful, in fact it is absolutely selfish to be out there protesting,” he said.

“The only fight we should be engaged in is against this virus.”

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Melbourne anti-lockdown protests: dozens arrested in violent clashes with police | Melbourne

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