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Coronavirus disaster: Anti-lockdown protest causes chaos in Melbourne

Police are arresting scores of anti-lockdown protesters, many of whom are maskless, as a tense demonstration in Melbourne stretches into its fourth hour.

The “Freedom Day” rally which began at the Shrine of Remembrance at 2pm Friday has spread across the city centre, resulting in aggressive scuffles between police and demonstrators for more than three hours.

Many of the demonstrators chanting “freedom” and for Premier Daniel Andrews to be sacked have not been wearing face masks.

An AAP photographer has reported police used pepper spray on protesters at the shrine.

Police are now processing a large group of protesters one-by-one at a service station in Kings Way, South Melbourne, where they have surrounded and outnumbered them.

Earlier, protesters damaged a police car, stole a policeman’s hat and let off a flare, the photographer said.

Protesters were met by a heavy police presence at an anti-lockdown action in the Melbourne CBD on Friday.
Camera IconProtesters were met by a heavy police presence at an anti-lockdown action in the Melbourne CBD on Friday. Credit: NCA NewsWire/Daniel Pockett
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 23: A large crowd gathers to protest on October 23, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.
Camera IconMELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 23: A large crowd gathers to protest on October 23, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

A separate group of protesters on St Kilda Road near the Arts Centre have been filmed by Nine News whacking police horses on the head with their flags.

TV journalists have tweeted they have been harassed and yelled at by angry protesters as they attempted to speak on camera.

Some people are wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Let Victoria work“, in reference to the shutdowns which remain in force across most industries.

Many are holding placards with slogans such as “Media is the virus“, “COVID-19 is a scam” and “Wake up Aussies”.

Protesters clash with police at an anti-lockdown protest at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Camera IconProtesters clash with police at an anti-lockdown protest at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire/Daniel Pockett
Protesters are calling on the end to lockdown restrictions in Victoria following a decline in new coronavirus cases reported in the state.
Camera IconProtesters are calling on the end to lockdown restrictions in Victoria following a decline in new coronavirus cases reported in the state. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius warned on Thursday that protesters could fall foul of legislation governing behaviour at the Shrine.

This legislation was being cited during arrests, AAP’s photographer said on Friday.

While lockdown rules have been eased this week, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25km from their homes, and are not permitted to have visitors to their home unless for care-giving.

They also can be fined if they gather in groups of more than 10 from more than two households, and must wear masks as well as social distance.

There were scuffles and several arrests last month as police broke up a protest at the Shrine.

A website for the Friday protest tells participants: “Daniel Andrews must resign and lockdowns must end. Restore our freedoms now.”

Mr Andrews urged people on Friday morning not to use the Shrine as a site of protest.

“Protests don’t work against this virus and potentially put at risk all the good work we are doing,” he said.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien, who is an advocate for easing of restrictions faster than the Victorian government has allowed, urged protesters not to break public health rules.

And he said the Shrine was not the place to protest because it was a place of “reverence” and “sacrifice”.

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