Australian police on Saturday employed harsh measures, including the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, to disperse crowds that had gathered on roads in a nationwide protest to oppose the imposition of lockdown by the government.
Widespread protests were witnessed in Australia over the weekend as thousands of unmasked protesters carried out anti-lockdown rallies in various cities throughout the country in defiance of the restrictions imposed by the government in the wake of the resurgent coronavirus outbreak.
Violent clashes erupted between protesters and law enforcement officials in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney as the latter accused the former of having “violence in mind”. Hundreds of protesters were detained and seven officers were hospitalised as a result of clashes a day after the country saw its highest-ever single-day rise in COVID-19 cases.
The scene of violence and chaos were particularly stark in Melbourne, where more than 4,000 people had come out to oppose the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the country. Victoria police arrested 218 protesters and six police officers were hospitalised in a series of altercation that ensued between the two sides.
Multiple people being arrested. pic.twitter.com/0tpOPW4O5U— Josh Bavas (@JoshBavas) August 21, 2021
The police also issued 236 fines and kept three people in custody for assaulting police. The arrested people face fines of A$5,452 ($3,900) each for breaching public health orders.
The Victoria police later issued a statement, defending its ham-handed measures against the protesters, whom they claimed were so hostile and aggressive that the police officials had no option but to use all tactics available to them.
Videos of the clashes that have gone viral show police officials using tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper-spray to break the crowds. Some of the videos show protesters, cheering, hurling objects at police officers and letting off flares during the demonstrations.
However, many journalists accused the police of wantonly using harsh measures even when the protesters were largely peaceful.
This was the moment police fired TEAR GAS at protesters marching away from them.— Avi Yemini 🇦🇺🇮🇱 (@OzraeliAvi) August 21, 2021
Today’s the first time I’ve seen police SHOOT rubber bullets and fire tear gas at any protest in Melbourne.
Full report coming exclusively to https://t.co/EaIX3zkB2M. pic.twitter.com/4ZNJv39CO5
The protests in Melbourne took place after Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that the strict lockdown imposed in the city would be extended across the entire state. The state recorded 77 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday.
Much like the anti-lockdown rallies in Melbourne, protesters in Sydney also took to streets to register their protest against lockdown. More than 1,500 officers were deployed in the city to control to the demonstrations. Taxis and Ubers plying in the city were banned until 3 pm on Saturday. Trains were not allowed to stop at city centre stations. About 137 tickets were issued by the police after stopping around 38,000 cars approaching Sydney.
The New South Wales Police issued a statement saying they made 47 arrests and issued at least 261 penalty infringement notices across the Sydney CBD and regional NSW.
Similarly, thousands of protesters also demonstrated on the streets of Brisbane in Queensland after restrictions were imposed in the city to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Police officers said actions taken by demonstrators would most likely prolong the lockdown instead of cutting them short. There was a general resentment among people after The Australian government and local administration resorted to imposing lockdown as vaccination has continued at a snail’s pace.
“The actions they have taken are likely to prolong the very lockdown they were protesting about.”
South Australia police said no arrests were made at an anti-lockdown protest in Rundle Park in Adelaide.