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Covid-19 Australia: Anti-lockdown protests erupt in Melbourne and Sydney

Anti-lockdown riots have erupted in Melbourne's CBD with violent protesters overpowering police officers and storming the streets in defiance of the city's stay-at-home orders.

More than 1,000 demonstrators turned out in full-force to protest against the lockdown as they swarmed in front of traffic in Richmond, in the Victorian capital's inner suburbs, on Saturday.  

Melbourne has spent 228 days in lockdown since since march 2020, and is set to notch up a grim world record for the most days spent under stay-at-home laws when it passes Buenos Aires on September 23.

In Sydney 32 were arrested and 265 fines handed out as 2,000 police swarmed the city, while in Byron Bay 11 people were arrested at a 250-strong street protest. 

Thousands more protested against lockdown restrictions and mandatory Covid vaccinations at large rallies in Brisbane and Perth. 

Some 2,000 officers were deployed at road checkpoints and barricades across Melbourne, and on roving patrols, to try to stop the rally going ahead in breach of public health orders.  

Police arrested 235 people and while most were taken away for breaching health directions, some were charged with assault, riotous behaviour and weapons and drug offences. Each will be fined $5,452, with 193 infringements handed out so far. 

Ten police were injured while dealing with the protests, with injuries including a broken elbow and broken nose, a broken finger and torn muscles. Six officers were taken to hospital. 

Commander Mark Galliott said bottles and stones were thrown at officers while an authorised vehicle was severely damaged.

'Angry aggressive young males (were) there to fight the police, not to protest about freedoms,' he told the media late on Saturday.  

Demonstrators met outside the Richmond Town Hall on Bridge Road at midday and were seen chanting 'free our children' and 'you serve us' before the protests turned violent.  

Scenes escalated as the group reached Burnley Street, with police forced to deploy capsicum spray before arresting dozens of protesters as others taunted and hurled abuse at them. 

Police dodged traffic cones, bottles, flares and smoke bombs after angry protesters hurled the items at the blockade. 

Shocking footage captured the moment a mob of frenzied protesters broke burst through a police line while screaming 'f*** you dogs' and trampling on officers knocked to the ground. 

At one point a group of protesters reportedly broke through the gate of an apartment complex as police moved in on them. 

Chaos in Melbourne: Anti-lockdown protesters faced off with police in the CBD despite the threat of $5,500 fines

Demonstrators stormed through police lines in Richmond and trampled on officers as they tried to fend off the crowd

A protester is seen with a small child on his shoulders during wild rallies across Melbourne

The man is seen standing in front of police during anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne on Saturday

Demonstrators lit up flares across the city as groups of protesters clashed with police in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday

A frenzied mob of protesters burst through a police line in Richmond and trampled over officers knocked to the ground 

One man was seen holding his face in agony as police deployed capsicum spray to try and contain the crowds

Dozens of arrests were made across the city as hundreds of protesters clashed with police. A woman is seen screaming as she's placed in handcuffs at the 'freedom rally' 

'Ring of steel': Thousands of police formed blockades and faced off against protesters 

Two law-abiding women wearing masks watched on in horror as protesters clashed with police in the inner-city 

Meanwhile in Sydney, demonstrators used live traffic app 'Waze' to navigate around roadblocks that were set up by police hours earlier as they prepared for the planned anti-lockdown rallies. 

Demonstrators sent each other messages and alerted each other in real time, prompting additional police to be deployed to Bass Hill, in south-west Sydney.

NSW Police arrived at Sydney Park, St Peters, in at least five busloads and were ready on cycles, on horseback and on foot to prevent demonstrators massing there, as a police operation blocked roads leading to the park.

Officers arrested 32 people and issued 265 fines across NSW as part of a coordinated response to the planned protests.

Police checked more than 60,000 vehicles at 19 stationary traffic points on major roads and mobile units were also deployed across roadways. 

The anti-lockdown rallies also went ahead in Brisbane with residents gathering at the Botanic Gardens. 

Footage showed several protesters without face masks, sitting together in close proximity and picnicking on the grass. 

More demonstrators were also spotted gathering in Adelaide with maskless crowds packed close together.

Protesters across the country were seen waving the Australian Red Ensign. The flag is normally flown at sea by Australian registered merchant ships, but has become a prominent symbol in the anti-lockdown protests.

Bloody scenes: One man with a bike helmet had blood gushing out of his nose after being detained by police in Richmond

One man was seen screaming on the ground while surrounded by five police officers at Melbourne's protest 

The Melbourne protest drew demonstrators of all walks from life, including tradies wearing fluro outfits and youths shielding their faces with masks  

Protesters break strict Covid-19 restrictions and gather during 'The Worldwide Rally for Freedom' in Melbourne

Despite Victoria's public transport network from 8am-2pm - protest organisers confirmed the march would go ahead

Several arrests were made as police deployed pepper spray and tried to contain the crowds

The streets of Melbourne were flooded with protesters willing to risk a $5,500 fine for entering the CBD 

Victoria Police setup barriers and roadblocks to stop protesters from flouting lockdown orders 

The protest started peacefully in Burnley Street, Richmond, with demonstrators sitting down in front of a police blockade but quickly escalated

Lockdown demonstrators worse ski goggles to protect themselves from capsicum spray as they taunted police

An anti-lockdown protester is arrested by police during the large scale rally in Melbourne on Saturday

Victoria, NSW and QLD Police had been anticipating large turnouts and taken precautionary measures ahead of the planned rallies that were promoted as 'Freedom Day' protests.

Roadblocks were set up and police presence was increased across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.   

Despite the closure of Victoria's public transport network from 8am-2pm - protest organisers confirmed the march would go ahead on Saturday morning. 

Police disrupt planned anti-lockdown rally across New South Wales (pictured, police patrol protest activity in Sydney)

NSW Police arrested 32 people and issued 265 Penalty Infringement Notices to demonstrators across the state on Saturday (pictured, police question a man at Sydney Park)

Over 1,700 officers were dispersed across the state of NSW to prevent the mass gathering of protesters on Saturday 

'With all Victorians best interests in mind we will be announcing a new location from 12pm,' a protesters' message read on social media early this morning.

'The new location will be announced via our website and Telegram channel so stay tuned and look out for updates.' 

The partial shutdown was made at the request of police after 4000 people attended a violent anti-lockdown action on August 21. 

Protests broke out in Sydney as well, where demonstrators used live traffic app Waze to bypass police roadblocks. A woman is pictured clashing with cops after being stopped outside Bass Hill Plaza in the city's south-west

A protester wearing a beanie and oversized glasses is arrested by police on Burnely Street in Melbourne

Anti-lockdown protesters sit on Burnley Street in Richmond despite warnings from police that demonstrators face fines of more than $5,000 if they attend the demonstrations

Police officers deploy capsicum spray to deter protesters crowded on Brumley Street, in Richmond, Melbourne, on Saturday

A protester not wearing a face mask confronts a police officer on Brumley Street, in Richmond, Melbourne, on Saturday

Health minister Martin Foley slammed the protests as 'illegal' and 'unhelpful'. 

'Victoria Police have all contingencies at hand and I'm confident the plans they have are well at hand to handle these illegal and unhelpful gatherings' he said. 

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police would be patrolling trains to ensure commuters had legitimate reasons to disembark.

The protest comes as the state records 535 new COVID-19 infections and one death.

The latest case count released on Saturday is the highest daily number so far in the latest outbreak and comes from 61,622 tests in the latest 24-hour period.

Sixty-two of the infections were linked to known cases, health authorities said. Victoria has 4974 active coronavirus cases. 

2,000 police officers were stationed in Melbourne's shut-down CBD to try and control the violent riots 

More demonstrators were also spotted gathering in Adelaide (right) and Brisbane (left) with maskless crowds packed close together

Police officers search a woman outside of Bass Hill Plaza, in south-western Sydney, after their presence was increased in the area to control anti-lockdown protests

Melbourne protesters walk along Bridge Road in Richmond as they make their way to Hawthorn to stage their anti-lockdown rally

Also on Saturday, health authorities warned the state's contact tracing team was under pressure and flagged delays in calls to track the movements of new cases.

Rising numbers have prompted the team to begin triaging cases in order to focus on those representing the highest risk, such as aged care workers.

'I don't think it indicates the system being overwhelmed, it indicates that the system clearly is under pressure,' Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters.

'When you've got several thousand cases, that's got to be dealt with in a different way than if there's several hundred cases,' he said.

The Department of Health's Kate Matson could not say how long the delays might be but promised anyone with a positive result would receive a text as soon as possible.

The development comes as Ballarat re-entered another lockdown after a surge of cases in regional Victoria, with fears a large number of people gathering could worsen the state's outbreak.

'The risk is so great from a convergence of thousands of people, as we saw recently,' Mr Patton told the Herald Sun.

Among the changes for Melburnians, people will be able to meet one person from another household for a walk or picnic, outdoor exercise time is doubled and the travel limit expanded to 10km. 

Fully vaccinated adults can see five people from two households, plus dependents for a picnic.

The state government is planning to outline a full road map out of lockdown on Sunday, tied to double dose vaccination rates and based on Burnet Institute modelling.

A woman is taken into the back of a police wagon after police increased their presence at Sydney Park, in St Peters, on Saturday

Protests in Melbourne started in Richmond before going up to Kew and then circling back to Richmond 

Officers pinned a protester to the ground on Victoria Street as scenes escalated between two sides in Melbourne on Saturday

Twenty police stations across Melbourne were closed to the public as law enforcement assisted in the major operation.  

'We realise people are fatigued and this is a significant step for us. We didn't take this lightly but given the circumstances and where we are with Covid, we cannot afford to allow transmission to occur,' Patton said before the protests broke out on Saturday.

'We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.' 

In a bid to disrupt the protests, trams ceased operating entirely, buses were made to bypass the city and trains were barred completely from entering the CBD until 2pm.

Ubers and taxis were also slapped with travel restrictions preventing them from entering the city unless passenger's have an essential reason.  

Essential workers required to travel were still able to enter the city but needed to carry their workers permit to gain access. 

A man is seen being arrested by police outside Richmond station 

Police holding batons and capsicum spray faced off with protesters in Melbourne  

A man is detained and escorted by police after they increased their presence to control an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney Park at St Peters

The heavy-handed measures come just weeks after Patton labelled the August 21 protests as 'one of the most violent the city has seen in 20 years'. 

Officers had no choice but to use non-lethal weapons to defend themselves from an angry mob that came armed and appeared intent on attacking them.

Tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets were used on demonstrators in Melbourne and more than 200 people were arrested after the anti-lockdown rally descended into a riot.

More than 4,000 people turned up to the 'freedom rally' despite Premier Dan Andrews warning the state was on the verge of a Covid catastrophe.

The operation followed news of 1331 new locally acquired coronavirus cases and six deaths from the 24 hours up to 8pm Friday (pictured, NSW Police patrol Sydney Park on Saturday)

Over 1700 officers were deployed across the state to manage the potential protests (pictured, heavy police presence at Sydney Park)

Police question a woman (pictured) at Bass Hill Plaza amid the 'Worldwide Rally for Freedom' protests

Police arrested 32 people across the state, including 20 in Sydney, and 265 infringement notices were issued (pictured, Police on horseback patrol Bass Hill Plaza)

The protests resulted in six officers being hospitalised - including two with suspected broken noses, one with a broken thumb and the others with concussions.

Mr Patton said he hoped officers would not have to use crowd control equipment such as capsicum spray and rubber bullets on Saturday but assured all police had nonlethal options on hand to prevent any violence.  

Victorians have already spent an agonising 226 days in lockdown since the pandemic began with fears it could continue well into Christmas. 

Residents have lived through the toughest lockdown measures in Australia, with other states choosing not to close local playgrounds and skate parks or impose curfews.

Other draconian rules such as only one parent accompanying children to playgrounds and eating being prohibited at the community venues have only been implemented in Victoria. 

Victoria recorded 423 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 4,038

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