Protesters clashed with the police in Melbourne, Australia, at a “Freedom Day” rally on Saturday, calling for an end to tough lockdown restrictions. The police arrested 17 protesters and fined more than 160 others — nearly everyone who had flouted the authorities’ instructions to stay home.
In all, about 200 protesters gathered at Victoria State’s war memorial, the Shrine of Remembrance, where they faced off against about 100 officers, some on horseback or in riot gear. At one point, groups of officers tackled several people to the ground before loading them into police vans. In another instance, the police put a mask on a protester after handcuffing him.
Many protesters accused the government of making up or overstating the effects of Covid-19.
“I’m personally here to say the lockdown needs to end,” said Dellacoma Rio, 38, who removed his shirt to show the word “Freedom” tattooed across his back.
Tensions have surged during the fifth week of Victoria’s six-week lockdown, which includes some of the strictest restrictions in the world. All nonessential businesses are closed. Melburnians are allowed to leave the house only for work, exercise or buying groceries, and travel is restricted to within about 3 miles of home. There is also a nightly curfew.
The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, condemned the protest as “selfish, dangerous and unlawful.”
“Solidarity rallies” were also held in other capital cities across the country and drew hundreds of attendees.
Some protesters wore masks and shirts alluding to the Illuminati, while others mentioned QAnon, the viral pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
Alem Dubael, 30, said he was protesting as part of a fight against “corruption in the new world order.”