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Police arrested 74 people on Sunday as anti-lockdown protesters massed in Melbourne for a second day, with some throwing fruit at police after raiding market stalls.
About 250 protesters chanting “Freedom” and “Power to the people” were encircled by officers at Queen Victoria Market.
Footage of violent scuffles was posted online with officers on horseback riding through groups of protesters inside the market, and heavily armoured riot squads lined up beside rows of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“There were a few tense moments when protesters started grabbing fruit and throwing it at police,” AAP photographer Erik Anderson said from the scene.
The heavily outnumbered protesters yelled “this is not a police state” and “you’ve got to be on the right side of history”.
Victoria police handed out 176 infringement notices for breaching the chief health officer’s directions, all of which carry a hefty fine.
Police executed search warrants on the home of a 44-year-old Burwood East man, believed to be one of the main instigators of the protest. He remained in police custody on Sunday evening and was expected to be charged with incitement.
Another person was arrested for assaulting police, but a spokesperson for Victoria police said no officers were injured during the demonstration.
The spokesperson said police were “disappointed that many protestors were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers”.
“Our investigations into this protest will continue, and we expect to issue further fines once the identity of individuals has been confirmed,” they said.
“While it remains unlawful for Victorians to leave home to protest, you can expect that Victoria Police will hold people to account. Anyone thinking of attending a protest can expect the same swift and firm response from police as has consistently occurred in relation to such behaviour.”
Some demonstrators appeared to hold beliefs associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is increasingly popular among anti-lockdown agitators. A man filmed by a Channel Nine reporter yelled at police that they were not doing enough to curb paedophilia, a staple of the conspiracy.
Other protesters told media that they had travelled from regional Victoria and even interstate to attend the protest.
Smaller groups of demonstrators broke off from the markets and marched down Elizabeth Street. Others unsuccessfully tried to run from police officers on horseback.
On Saturday 14 people were arrested and at least 50 fined when about 100 people demonstrated against the strict Melbourne coronavirus restrictions across various locations.
Facebook posts say protesters plan to gather every Saturday until restrictions are eased.
On Sunday Victoria police defended their actions after a woman shared footage of officers dragging her from a car at an outer suburbs checkpoint.
The masked driver, who later identified herself on Facebook as Natalie Bonett, appeared to refuse to get out of her car after talking with an officer about a phone charger mounted on her car dashboard at Wallan, about 60km north of the city.
A spokeswoman for Victoria police said she was being questioned over “her mobile phone [allegedly] obstructing her view due to its position on the windscreen”.
“The woman refused to remove her phone from the windscreen. When asked for her name and address, the woman refused to supply her details which is an offence,” she said.
“The woman was warned that if she did not provide her details, she would be arrested. She still refused and was asked by police to get out of her car. When she refused this request, she was taken from the car by officers and taken into custody.”
The footage showed the officer unlocking the car door and physically pulling the woman from the car as she yelled and a male passenger clung to her, shouting “she has anxiety”.
She was later released from custody.
Victoria police confirmed on Sunday that she was expected to be charged with six offences, including assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, driving with obscured vision, failure to produce a licence, failure to state her name and address and offensive language.
Victoria on Sunday reported 41 new cases and seven further deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 723.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Police arrest 74 people at Melbourne coronavirus anti-lockdown protest | Australia news