The Australian state government of Victoria and the Victoria Police shut down Melbourne center and public transportation Saturday in an effort to quash the planned “Freedom Rally,” a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.
Authorities announced in a press conference Wednesday that they were strongly considering shutting down Melbourne’s public transport ahead of planned protests against the Labor government’s COVID-19 restrictions. “We’ll be doing everything we can to prevent people attending,” Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton said on radio station 3AW, citing violence that had occurred at the Aug. 21 “Freedom Rally” protest. (RELATED: Australia Plans To Deploy The Army To Enforce COVID Lockdown Orders)
2000 police officers will be deployed in the city to stop the protest. Essential workers who need to come to the CBD will need to show their workers permit with details of their employment and required hours. @7NewsMelbourne
— Jodi Lee (@jodilee_7) September 15, 2021
Despite efforts from police, protests began at Richmond Town Hall on the corner of Church Street and Bridge Road in Melbourne. The crowd chanted, “You serve us” and “shame on you,” among other slogans, according to footage posted on Twitter.
With hands on their batons, police officers began herding the protesters into a street where they could employ a tactic called ‘”kettling,” video shows. However, protesters linked arms and broke police lines, similar to scenes from previous protests throughout Australia, video shows.
— Sam Pye (@freddie1999) September 18, 2021
The Victorian Police Union slammed the actions of Saturday’s protesters. “What we saw yesterday was just acts from criminals,” Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said while denying any wrongdoing from the Victorian Police and calling the protests “unlawful.”
— PoliBard (@PoliBard) September 18, 2021
Police have been caught on camera punching, kicking, pepper-spraying protesters, along with journalists, who have had a hard time covering protests in Melbourne due to police hostility throughout 2020 and 2021.
After the events, Victoria Police said that 235 arrests were made, 193 fines handed out, and that some protesters received assault and weapons charges, according to Australia’s SBS.
Both the police and protesters suffered injuries, with authorities stating that ten officers were injured with six being taken to hospital according to The Age. It remains unclear how many protesters suffered injuries. One incident, widely captured on by multiple parties, showed two male officers shoving an elderly woman to the ground before dousing her with capsicum spray.
Each protester arrested faces AU $5,500 fines for breaching public health orders, according to the Daily Mail.
How Australia plans on beating COVID👇🏼
— Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) September 18, 2021
Got her. pic.twitter.com/Liu7GcD0ME
— Evelyn Rae (@_evelynrae) September 18, 2021
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The hashtag “ThankYouVicPol” made the rounds on Twitter following the protest, with some accounts praising the police’s actions Saturday.
It’s not a political message. It’s a message of gratitude. Today Victoria Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect Aussies from violent rioters. Victorians stand with them and give them our thanks. #ThankYouVicPol
— PRGuy (@PRGuy17) September 18, 2021
This footage is sickening. These actions are selfish, irresponsible and has everything to do with gratuitous violence and nothing to do with protesting. #ThankYouVicPol 💙 #freedumbrally #COVIDIOTS https://t.co/aH2k2X20tL
— Sonja Terpstra 🐓 (@TerpsMLC) September 18, 2021
A “roadmap out of COVID lockdown” was released by the Victorian Government on Sept. 19 revealing the relaxing of some restrictions, such as indoor dining, for those who are vaccinated. Australia is currently recording 1,162 deaths from COVID-19, amassing a death rate of 0.0044% nationwide. (RELATED: ‘Invasion Of Bodily Autonomy’: Journalist Glenn Greenwald Rips Proposed Vaccine Passport ‘Caste System.’