Update (1120ET): Earlier, mostly peaceful, anti-lockdown protests have turned violent, clashing with Australian police, who responded with pepper spray, roadblocks and a string of arrests.
New South Wales deputy police commissioner Mal Lanyon explained Orwellianly that “this is not about stopping free speech, this is about stopping the spread of the virus,” while the state’s police minister David Elliott warned protesters would face “the full force of the NSW police.”
As The Epoch Times’ Mimi Nguyen Ly detailed earlier, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Melbourne, Australia, in a largely peaceful fashion to rally against local lockdown restrictions—a stark contrast to the situation in Sydney, where more than 1,500 police officers descended upon the central business district (CBD) and surrounding areas to quash what was believed to be a planned anti-lockdown protest.
Police in New South Wales, where Sydney is the capital, announced Saturday morning that public transport routes and ride shares to downtown Sydney would be blocked. Trains had to skip major train stations until 2 p.m. local time. Taxis and rideshare companies were threatened with fines of up to half a million dollars if they take people to central Sydney between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time.
Police officers held up traffic on major roads into the city to fend off any hints of a planned protest. They issued a total of 137 tickets after stopping some 38,000 cars.
In a statement on Twitter, the NSW police said that a protest is unauthorised and would risk spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. “Public safety is our first priority and you will be fined or arrested if you turn up.”
From about 10 a.m. local time, a police chopper began circling above what was believed to be the protest’s planned starting point. Video footage showed groups of police officers chasing people and taking away several people near Victoria Park.
NSW police ultimately charged 47 people with breaching public health orders or resisting arrest, among other offences, and issued more than 260 fines ranging from A$50 ($35) to $3,000 ($2,139). The police said about 250 people made it to the city for the protest.
One of the alleged organisers of the Saturday protest, 29-year-old Anthony Khallouf, was sentenced to eight months in prison where he will spend at least three months, for having failed to comply with NSW public health orders.
Separately, in Queensland’s capital of Brisbane, thousands of people gathered in the city’s Botanic Gardens to rally against the lockdown and vaccine measures, reported The Courier Mail. “Wake up sheeple,” one sign read, reported the Australian Associated Press. Queensland Police said they did not make any arrests, the outlet reported.