Thousands of Australians Protest Lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne

protests Jul 24, 2021

Thousands of Australians fed up with COVID-19 lockdowns marched in Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday as part of the “World Wide Rally for Freedom” protests.

Australian protestors march along Broadway and George St towards Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia on July 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australians gathered in the thousands at inner Sydney’s Victoria Park before marching to Town Hall in the central business district, escorted by a heavy police presence which included mounted police and riot officers.

Protestors carried signs, and in a video posted on Twitter by Pedestrian Daily journalist Zac Crellin, they can be heard chanting: “What do we want? Freedom. When do we want it? Now!”

In Crellin’s videos, supporters can be heard honking their horns and displaying their own signs, amid cheers and shouts by the protestors as they marched.

Some of the signs read “Unmask the truth” and “You’ll be safer media distancing than social distancing.”

Epoch Times Photo
Protesters march along Broadway and George St towards Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney on July 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

NSW Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community,” a police statement said, describing it as a “high-visibility policing operation” in response to “unauthorised protest activity.”

Police confirmed that “a number” of arrests were made. Some protesters reportedly threw plastic bottles and plants taken from the street, AAP reported.

Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Five million Greater Sydney residents have been told by government officials they cannot leave their homes except for four reasons.

Despite lockdown measures and other restrictions, including mask-wearing and social distancing, the CCP virus has continued to spread, with New South Wales reporting another 163 locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

Prior to the event, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard condemned the planned protest as “really silly” on Saturday morning.

“We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest … but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration,” he said.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said it was not the time for a protest.

He said police wanted to work with the organisers to make sure people were complying with public health orders and that it did not turn into a “disastrous” mass spreading event.

Epoch Times Photo
Thousands march in solidarity with protests in the United States in Melbourne, Australia on June 6, 2020. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Sydney anti-lockdown protest is one of the largest to occur in Australia amid the pandemic since last year, when tens of thousands of Black Lives Matters supporters and protestors marched in Melbourne. Those protests were held in solidarity with BLM protests in the United States, and alongside domestic activism against Indigenous deaths in custody.

The Melbourne BLM protests came weeks before the city and the entire state of Victoria went into one of the longest lockdowns of any city in the world—lasting 112 days—amid a second outbreak.

Fears were expressed on Twitter via the #SydneyCBD hashtag that Saturday’s anti-lockdown protests might have the same result.

In the neighbouring state of Victoria, south of Sydney, at least 3,000 “freedom” protestors have also gathered in Melbourne’s central business district.

Herald Sun journalist Olivia Jenkins posted a video on Twitter showing scenes outside Victoria’s Parliament House, where flares were lit and protestors held up flags and chanted: “Freedom!”

One banner, held up on the steps of the Parliament, read: “This is not about a virus, it’s about total government control of the people! This stops now!”

A car rally is also planned for Adelaide, which is also locked down, with police there warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.

AAP contributed to this report.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson

By Caden Pearson

Continued:

Chaotic scenes as thousands gather for anti-lockdown protests

Thousands of people have gathered for lockdown protest marches across Australia. In chaotic scenes, thousands walked through Sydney's inner-city, despite the city being in lockdown. Some of the protesters were carrying placards with anti-vaccination messages. Many appeared not to be wearing masks. Police confirmed 57 people have been arrested and charged at the Sydney protest, which was in breach of public health orders. More than 90 infringements have been issued.

A man being arrested being arrested at the Sydney rally. (Nine)
Few people were wearing masks at the Sydney protest. (Brooke Mitchell)

Another rally was held in Melbourne and a third in Brisbane.At the Melbourne rally, police officers formed a blockade at the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St. Officers surrounded the protest group and began detaining those who were refusing the leave the area. In Sydney protesters met at Victoria Park on the edge of the CBD, then, led by police on horses, marched to Town Hall.

Lockdown protesters in Sydney.
Lockdown protesters in Sydney. (Nine)

There was no social distancing and few face masks. A man dancing with batons lit on fire was sprayed with a fire extinguisher before being arrested.Protesters climbed onto shop awnings, what appeared to be an Australian flag was burnt and anti-Government messages were chanted as police tried to move the crowd on.NSW Police issued a statement confirming the arrests."Officers from across Central Metropolitan Region, assisted by specialist resources, were deployed," the statement reads. "So far during the operation, a number of people have been arrested. As attendees disperse, movement out of the city will be facilitated down George Street. "Police said trains were still operating, but some station entrances are blocked. Once the crowd made its way back at Victoria Park, police warned anyone who did not leave would be issued with a $1000 fine and began making arrests.

A man with batons lit on fire at the rally in Sydney.
A man with batons lit on fire at the rally in Sydney. (Nine)
The man had his fire extinguished and then appeared to be held by police.
The man had his fire extinguished and then appeared to be held by police. (Nine)

Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said he was "very concerned" people were not wearing masks and physically distancing. "When that happens, there is the risk that we'll get spread of COVID-19," Professor Kidd said."This is even more imperative during this outbreak with the Delta variant than it was during the times last year when we saw similar protests."This puts people's lives at risk. "NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said ahead of the event, a lockdown protest being held in Sydney could be "disastrous." "I think it's not really the time for people to come together closely, to exercise somewhat they would think was their democratic right and it may well be," he said. "New South Wales Police are in a position where they will try and work with the organisers and the specific group leaders to make sure that they comply with the public health orders, and in fact we don't get a situation where we end up with a spreading event in Sydney which would, of course, be disastrous."

Some of the protesters carried anti-vaccination messages.
Some of the protesters carried anti-vaccination messages. (Nine)


Meanwhile, almost 250 people have been fined for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules over the past 24 hours in NSW.

Police were forced to remove people from shop awnings in Sydney. (Nine)

Most of the fines handed out yesterday were for people blatantly disobeying the rules by having parties at home. Police were called to a party at Pyrmont where eight people were fined $1000. Six people were fined at a birthday party at Riverwood in the city's South.People are not supposed to have anybody to their home at all. At Belmont near Newcastle - where five people are allowed to a home - 10 people were fined for being at a party.

Protesters took to the streets of Melbourne. (Wayne Taylor)

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys called the party hosts and guests "highly irresponsible." "People are actually planning these events and inviting people around. They know it is outside the public health order," he said. However, NSW Health Minister Hazzard dismissed raising fines to try and deter people, saying officials are working with multi-cultural communities to get the messages out. "It is one of the joys of this nation that we are a proud multicultural nation, but sometimes people who have come from overseas perhaps have suffered at the hands of other governments and perhaps getting the messages through is challenging," he said.

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys (9News)

"So, we need to find ways to keep working at that and get the messages through." "We really need our community, particularly in southwestern and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home."And don't intermingle with family members from other households." Plus, 18 people who were among those who gathered in relation to a family "tragedy" in Sydney's Pendle Hill have now been diagnosed with the virus. It's not known if they were also fined.

By Sarah Swain

Continued:

Anti-lockdown protests across Australia as Covid cases surge to record levels in Sydney

Anti-lockdown protesters have marched in major Australian cities, as Covid cases spiked to record numbers in Sydney and authorities warned of a “continuing and growing problem”.

Thousands of angry, unmasked people marched through the Sydney central business district on Saturday afternoon demanding an end to the city’s lockdown, which is entering its fifth week. Police made several arrests of protesters who broke through barriers or threw plastic bottles at officers.

Similar scenes unfolded in Melbourne and Adelaide, which are both in lockdown, and Brisbane, which is not.

As demonstrators were gathering in Sydney, the New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, revealed a record number of new coronavirus cases had been detected – 163 in the previous 24 hours – and pleaded with people to stay at home.

“We really need our community, particularly in south-western and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home,” Hazzard said.

The NSW police said officers from across central metropolitan region, assisted by specialist resources, were deployed in response to the unauthorised Sydney protest.

“The NSW police force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, today’s protest is in breach of the current Covid-19 public health orders,” it said.

“The priority for NSW police is always the safety of the wider community.”

Hazzard condemned the planned protests as “really silly” on Saturday morning.

“We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest ... but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”

NSW police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys said police wanted to work with the organisers to make sure people were complying with public health orders and that it did not turn into a “disastrous” mass spreading event.

In Melbourne, thousands of protesters turned out in the central business district chanting “freedom”.

An AAP photographer on scene described the rally as initially “eerie” with the crowd maskless and verbally aggressive, but said the atmosphere later mellowed.

Protesters as Queensland police look on during the anti-lockdown rally in Brisbane
Protesters as Queensland police look on during the anti-lockdown rally in Brisbane. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Some protesters lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria’s Parliament House.

Protesters held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”

The protest was brought to a violent end by police. An AAP photographer wearing visible press accreditation was pepper sprayed as police cleared the rally, as were other photographers.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, had labelled the idea of protesting against the lockdown as “ridiculous”.

“Protest against this virus by staying at home, following the rules and getting out of lockdown,” he said.

Victoria recorded 12 new locally acquired Covid-19 infections on Saturday, 10 of which were in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period. All infections are linked to current outbreaks. Victoria has been in lockdown since 16 July.

A car rally is also planned for locked-down Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.

On Saturday, the South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, has reported one new case of Covid-19, linked to the Tenafeate winery cluster.

The state is in the middle of a seven-day lockdown, which Marshall says is on track to be lifted on Tuesday.

The slow rate of Australia’s Covid vaccine rollout has been heavily criticised, with only 12.4% of the population fully vaccinated so far.

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Michael Kidd, said the protests were putting lives at risk.

“I’m very concerned if people are not following those restrictions ... When that happens, there is the risk that we’ll get spread of Covid-19,” he said on Saturday.

“This is even more imperative during this outbreak with the Delta variant than it was during the times last year when we saw similar protests.”

By Ben Smee

Continued:

Arrests at violent Sydney lockdown Freedom Day rally as Victorians, Queenslanders march

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and police have lashed protesters at a violent rally in Sydney, as thousands stormed streets in Melbourne and Brisbane. WARNING: Graphic

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she is “utterly disgusted” by the illegal protestors who stormed the streets of Sydney on Saturday, whose “selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us”.

“The protestors have shown utter contempt for their fellow citizens who are currently doing it tough,” she said.

“I want to thank the brave Police officers who put their own safety on the line to ensure the protest action ceased.

“This type of activity during lockdown will not be tolerated and the full force of the law will be brought against anyone who engages in this type of illegal activity.”

NSW Police Minister David Elliott also echoed her sentimants, lashing the anti-lockdown protesters “selfish boofheads” and vowed to prosecute them all in a furious press conference hours after dramatic scenes erupted.

The protesters have marched shoulder-to-shoulder through the streets despite NSW recording its highest number of daily infections since the Covid-19 outbreak started.

NSW Police said Saturday’s protest was “a breach of Covid-19 health orders”. A total of 57 had been arrested so far and 90 infringements notices were handed out. But these numbers are expected to climb.

Police said 22 detectives are being dedicated to find protesters and have called for anyone with footage to send it in.

“What we saw today were 3500 very selfish boofheads,” Mr Elliott said. “People who thought the law did not apply to them.”

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

Mr Elliott has also called on everyone at the protests to get tested for Covid and announced the formation of a police strike force to identify and track down each of the estimated 3,500 protesters.

Police also alleged that officers were assaulted.

“I’m hoping we issue 3,500 infringement notices, I’m hoping we have people before the courts,” Mr Elliott said.

A protester tries to push away a police horse in Sydney as thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the city's month-long stay-at-home orders. Picture: AFP

A protester tries to push away a police horse in Sydney as thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the city's month-long stay-at-home orders. Picture: AFP

“If you don’t want to be in lockdown, obey the rules.”

Shock photos from the protest emerged showing the brazen protesters huddled together as they walked through Broadway in Sydney’s innerwest to nearby Victoria Park chanting, holding signs and halting traffic.

Others showed the massive police operation enacted after a massive crowd hit the CBD near Town Hall.

Violence continues as the Sydney protest gets rowdy. Picture: Matrix

Violence continues as the Sydney protest gets rowdy. Picture: Matrix

The protest moved onto Town Hall where a massive police presence was located to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

The protest moved onto Town Hall where a massive police presence was located to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

A massive police presence was located at Town Hall in the CBD to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

A massive police presence was located at Town Hall in the CBD to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

The massive police presence sent to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

The massive police presence sent to manage the crowds. Picture: Matrix

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Sydney. Picture: Steve Hart

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Sydney. Picture: Steve Hart

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews.

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews.

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Victoria Park during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Victoria Park during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Police even used pepper spray to control chaotic crowds, with hundreds of people not wearing any face covering.

Officers on horses followed the crowds as they make their way towards Town Hall.

The Sydney protest turned violent as police tried to control the crowd. Picture: Matrix

The Sydney protest turned violent as police tried to control the crowd. Picture: Matrix

A large group gathers in Victoria Park near Broadway adjacent the CBD to protest against the restrictions. Picture: Matrix

A large group gathers in Victoria Park near Broadway adjacent the CBD to protest against the restrictions. Picture: Matrix

“The NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, today’s protest is in breach of the current COVID-19 Public Health Orders,” it read.

“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”

Protesters clash with police at the protests in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with police at the protests in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

St James and Museum railway stations were forced to close due to the protests.

“Trains continue to operate and for those at the northern end, access is via Wynyard and Circular Quay Railway Stations,” a NSW Police spokesman said.

“For those at the southern end, access will be via Central and Redfern with limited access at Town Hall Railway Station.”

Protestors clash with police. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protestors clash with police. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

The protest is one of about nine across the country as anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters hold a “worldwide rally for freedom” on Saturday afternoon.

NSW Police make arrests in Sydney’s CBD during a heated protest. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

NSW Police make arrests in Sydney’s CBD during a heated protest. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Victoria Park during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Victoria Park during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Protesters clash with NSW Police officers at Town Hall during a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

Pictures from The Freedom March in Sydney as protestors clash with police in and around Victoria Park in Chippendale, Sydney. Pictures by Julian Andrews

The Tik Tok comedian who shot to fame when he accurately predicted NSW case numbers five days in a row was also spotted at the protest.

Jon-Bernard Kairouz addressed a crowd of thousands who gathered on Saturday in defiance of public health orders designed to slow down the city’s growing outbreak.

The 26-year-old dubbed himself “the people’s premier” as he spoke to a cheering sea of people waving Australian flags and holding signs decrying masks and vaccines.

“I must say I’ve crunched the numbers, I don’t think the cases are going to go up tomorrow,” he said.

“But from what I’ve calculated there’s over 50,000 people here today.”

Kairouz boasted he was the “people’s premier” in a video on Instagram. Picture: Instagram

Kairouz boasted he was the “people’s premier” in a video on Instagram. Picture: Instagram

Kairouz posted a video of himself speaking to Instagram, where many of his followers did not mince words in expressing their disapproval.

“This is f..king ridiculous,” one person wrote. “If your aim is freedom — you’ve f..ked up by bringing thousands of people together. Watch the spike. Congrats!”

“There are people in ICU how selfish can you be?” said another.

Other commenters were supportive of his attendance.

MELBOURNE PROTESTERS STORM STREETS

In Melbourne, police made arrests before the protest even took place with officers arresting multiple people for not wearing a mask and failing to show their ID.

Protesters gathered about 12pm at Flinders Street Station, before walking up Swanston Street towards Parliament House.

About 5000 people took to the streets, chanting, waving flags and halting trams and traffic.

Earlier on Saturday NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the move to protest as “silly”.

“We live in a democracy and I am certainly one who supports people’s right to protest, but I actually think it is really silly,” he said.

“At present we’ve got cases through the roof and we have people thinking it’s okay to get out there and possibly be close to each other.”

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

A large police presence as people gather for a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Melbourne. A man is handcuffed by police. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Sarah Matray

A large police presence as people gather for a protest to rally for freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and Health in Melbourne. A man is handcuffed by police. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Sarah Matray

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

Protesters take to the streets during a Freedom rally in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Getty

Protesters take to the streets during a Freedom rally in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Getty

Huge crowds have also gathered in Melbourne’s CBD, many not wearing face masks. Picture: Michael Groppo

Huge crowds have also gathered in Melbourne’s CBD, many not wearing face masks. Picture: Michael Groppo

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said he was “beyond disappointed” at the protests and urged people to rethink their motives to protest amid a global pandemic.

“Please be on the side of humanity, not the side of the virus,” he said.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

World Wide Rally for Freedom through Melbourne city. Picture Rebecca Michael.

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

Melburnians take to the city streets for Melbourne Freedom Rally. Picture: Mark Stewart

QUEENSLAND PROTESTS GET HEATED

Queenslanders are not in lockdown but that did not stop thousands turning out to join a lockdown rally in Brisbane.

Many who are anti-mask and anti-vaccination supporters turned out with placards, angry about current restrictions across the country.

Police estimated the crowd at around 7500 people but it is understood that up to 10,000 were present at times.

The protest included an assembly at the Botanical Gardens and a short march through the CBD.

Protesters take part in a Freedom rally in the City Botanic Gardens, Brisbane. Picture: Shiloh Payne

Protesters take part in a Freedom rally in the City Botanic Gardens, Brisbane. Picture: Shiloh Payne

Attendees have been seen carrying signs that read “my body my choice” and “experimental vaccines Australia says no.”

Families brought young children and dogs to the gathering where they listen to speeches.

Protests have been organised across the country in protest of the lockdown in Sydney and Melbourne.

The crowd booed chief health Dr Jeannette Young as a speaker discussed a letter he planned to send to her and the Premier.

One speaker named Max said the pandemic had become “an IQ test” as “people can’t see what’s going on here.”

He said lockdown was “worse than being in a prison.”

“Sydney is a prison at the moment, they’re not allowed to leave their suburb to even go to work.”

A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said there had been no arrests but officers would review footage to ensure no laws had been broken.

“QPS recognise and support the right to peaceful assembly and protest,” she said.

“Under current restrictions, persons outdoors are not required to wear or carry a mask as long as physical distancing is maintained.

“We will be reviewing all available footage of today’s events to determine if any clear breaches have occurred and consider initiating enforcement actions if required.”

By Shoba Rao, Anthony Piovesan, Lane Sainty, Kate Kyriacou, and Shiloh Payne

Continued:

Massive Australian marches put rogue state COVID regimes on notice

MEDIA and their government sponsors have tried to ignore a major World Freedom Day protest in Brisbane while trying to smear and understate the marches in Sydney and Melbourne over a few incidents where protesters clashed with cops. Marches were also held in Adelaide along with a vehicle convoy in Perth.

The massive crowd at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens before it spilled out onto the streets for the World Freedom Rally march.

Brisbane notable because the turnout was double or triple previous rallies and estimated by organisers to be up to 15,000, indicating that the push-back against the great COVID con is gathering a massive, broad base of support. Brisbane train lines were “coincidentally” shut down for maintenance.

But the Brisbane rally was notably absent from TV news reports, or given minimal coverage like the ABC, who initially lied that only 1500 people were at the rally. Their reporter was given a tongue lashing on the street, as were others in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Queensland cops initially refused to issue a permit for the gathering when approached by the primary organisers, The People’s Revolution, a group with strong links to the local indigenous communities and well aware of the insidious nature of the COVID operation against all Australians. But when the TPR representatives said the march was going ahead regardless of their approval or not, the cops backed down and co-operated on the day.

Creative and hard-hitting placards were out in force at the rally.

On March 30, 150 members of the group fronted up to Premier Palasczcuk’s office to deliver a letter asking her to initiate a full inquiry into the management of COVID-19, investigating specifically the origins of the virus, accurate death and case numbers to justify the “pandemic” claim, proof of the effectiveness of lockdowns and masks and their negative effects, the banning of safe and effective treatments, and why provisional approvals were given to vaccines when there are still significant outstanding safety concerns.

As expected, Palasczcuk failed to deliver and TPR organisers promised further such action in much bigger numbers if Palasczcuk attempts another lockdown like the ridiculous but incredibly destructive lockdown charades happening in NSW and Victoria.

Unlike previous World Freedom Day rallies in Brisbane, Saturday’s one took to the streets of the Brisbane CBD before the speeches. Shoppers and residents lining the streets were staggered by the size of the human convoy filling block after block.

Unlike Brisbane, cops in Sydney and Melbourne came out in large numbers, forcing themselves onto the large marches on the streets defying the lockdown orders, resulting in some incidents with 57 arrests in Sydney. Queensland police made no attempt to intimidate or interfere with the gathering and march, and simply carried out the usual traffic control functions.

In Berejiklian kept a low profile after the march, probably sulking over the rejection of her totally stupid call for a “national emergency” and splits in the Liberal ranks by members including her parliamentary deputy and Treasurer Dominic Perrotet who are unhappy over her and Health Hazzard’s ridiculous lockdown.

This indicates the pressure is beginning to take its toll on the NSW Liberals. Even Dictator Dan down south seemed to back off and was talking about “a path out of lockdown”. Last week Alan Jones went on his Sky News program to declare that Berejiklian had “lost her right to govern”.

By Tony Mobilifonitis

Continued:

Betoota Advocate faces backlash for sympathy for anti-lockdown ‘protesters’

Satirical news website Betoota Advocate is facing backlash for publishing two articles that seemingly defended the anti-lockdown protestors who clashed with police in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday in scenes that shocked Australia.

The website, known for its opposition to the Morrison government and the Murdoch press, was criticised by its predominantly left-leaning, millennial readers for its sympathetic take on the maskless thugs at the so-called ‘Freedom Rally’.

The articles, published on Saturday and Sunday, suggested the demonstrators weren’t anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists but were in fact just ordinary western Sydneysiders expressing their dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s handling of the Covid pandemic.

This is despite the fact hundreds of protesters carried placards with anti-vax slogans like ‘my body, my choice’ and ‘the media is the virus’ and spread conspiratorial nonsense when confronted by journalists.

Several high-profile figures have blasted the website for its questionable take on the protests, including Waleed Aly’s academic wife Dr Susan Carland and outspoken Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield.

'Understandable distrust': Satirical news website Betoota Advocate is facing backlash for publishing two articles that seemingly defended the anti-lockdown protestors who clashed with police in Sydney's CBD on Saturday in scenes that shocked Australia

‘Understandable distrust’: Satirical news website Betoota Advocate is facing backlash for publishing two articles that seemingly defended the anti-lockdown protestors who clashed with police in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday in scenes that shocked Australia

Saturday’s article, written by one of Betoota’s editors under the byline ‘Clancy Overell’, featured the headline, ‘Thousands March To Highlight Understandable Distrust of PM’s S**thouse Public Health Messages.’

The story, published on Instagram and the Betoota Advocate website, said the protests in Sydney and other cities ‘speaks to the bigger issue’ of the government’s botched vaccine rollout – which is ludicrous given the protestors are opposed to the vaccine to begin with.

The article went on to allege the government deliberately ‘generated fear and hesitancy’ around vaccines to ‘buy more time’ while waiting for them to arrive.

Missing the mark: Betoota published another story on Sunday, this time trying to portray the lockdown protests as a symptom of class struggle
Missing the mark: Betoota published another story on Sunday, this time trying to portray the lockdown protests as a symptom of class struggle
Criticism: Several high-profile figures have blasted the website for its questionable take on the protests, including Waleed Aly's (left) academic wife Dr Susan Carland (right)
Criticism: Several high-profile figures have blasted the website for its questionable take on the protests, including Waleed Aly’s (left) academic wife Dr Susan Carland (right)
Not impressed: 'Jeez guys, no,' Dr Carland commented below the article on Instagram
Not impressed: ‘Jeez guys, no,’ Dr Carland commented below the article on Instagram

This ignores the fact vaccine hesitancy is usually the product of misinformation spread on social media, not because of politicians or the press.

The article went on to characterise the protests as ‘a damning insight into how the government is being perceived by the people’ and suggested the Federal and NSW governments were ‘secretly cheering’ for a deadly super-spreader event in order to shift the blame onto everyday Aussies.

Betoota Advocate published another story on Sunday, this time trying to portray the lockdown protests as a symptom of class struggle.

The headline read, ‘”Stupid Bogans” To Blame For Yesterday, Not Lack Of JobKeeper Or Insufficient Supply Of Jabs.’

The article suggested the government was to blame for online radicalisation and that the protests wouldn’t have happened if there had been more vaccines and sufficient JobKeeper payments during the latest lockdowns.

But this simply doesn’t align with how many Freedom Day protesters view their decision to attend the marches, with a significant number holding placards saying they don’t want the vaccine at all.

Meanwhile, there were very few placards on show that addressed welfare payments.

Furious: 'What the f**k are you doing, Betoota?' asked Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield (pictured)
Furious: ‘What the f**k are you doing, Betoota?’ asked Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield (pictured)
Smart: Chatfield is an outspoken opponent of anti-vaxxers online
Chatfield is an outspoken opponent of anti-vaxxers online
'I'm really confused by this post? Who's side are you on?' Betoota Advocate's bizarre take was roundly rejected by its readers, who blasted the articles in the comments section
‘I’m really confused by this post? Who’s side are you on?’ Betoota Advocate’s bizarre take was roundly rejected by its readers, who blasted the articles in the comments section
'Are you serious?' Readers said they were 'disappointed' even wondered if the account had been hacked or if the usual editorial staff had been replaced for the weekend
‘Are you serious?’ Readers said they were ‘disappointed’ even wondered if the account had been hacked or if the usual editorial staff had been replaced for the weekend

Betoota Advocate’s bizarre take was roundly rejected by its readers, who blasted the articles in the comments section.

‘What the f**k are you doing, Betoota?’ asked Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield, who is an outspoken opponent of anti-vaxxers online.

Dr Susan Carland, the academic wife of TV host Waleed Aly, wrote: ‘Jeez guys, no.’

‘Why are you glorifying these flogs?’ one disappointed reader wrote, while another asked: ‘What the f**k is this headline?’

‘I’m really confused by this post. Whose side are you on?’ one person commented.

Another reader added: ‘But they weren’t protesting the lack of government support, they were complaining about having to wear masks.’

A third commented: ‘This is just an embarrassing take.’

Do the right thing: One comment said that all Australians get the same messaging from the government about Covid 'but [the] majority of us aren't out there flouting restrictions.' Pictured: anti-lockdown protesters marching down George St in Sydney's CBD on Saturday

Do the right thing: One comment said that all Australians get the same messaging from the government about Covid ‘but [the] majority of us aren’t out there flouting restrictions.’ Pictured: anti-lockdown protesters marching down George St in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday

One comment said that all Australians get the same messaging from the government about Covid ‘but [the] majority of us aren’t out there flouting restrictions.’

Other readers said they were ‘disappointed’ even wondered if the account had been hacked or if the usual editorial staff had been replaced for the weekend.

Betoota Advocate is a parody news website in the style of The Chaser, but also encompasses a podcast on the NOVA network and a beer brand, Betoota Bitter.

Its articles are not news, but instead offer a satirical take on current affairs.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted NOVA for comment.

Hitting back: Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday joined a chorus of politicians to rebuke the protesters across the nation, describing their actions as selfish and reckless
Hitting back: Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday joined a chorus of politicians to rebuke the protesters across the nation, describing their actions as selfish and reckless

By The Daily Mail

Continued:

Australians say ‘no more’: Mass freedom protests staged in capital cities

Anti-lockdown protesters have marched in major Australian cities, calling for an end to ongoing restrictions, media deception and anti-democratic government control.

Powerful scenes show crowds stretching as far as the eye can see, with an estimated 40,000 people turning out in Sydney and Melbourne alone for peaceful rallies.

Anti-lockdown protesters have marched in major Australian cities, calling for an end to ongoing lockdowns, media deception and anti-democratic government control.

Tens of thousands of people marched through central business districts this afternoon, as part of ‘worldwide march for freedom’ events that are currently sweeping the world.

You can find compiled footage from the rallies, including a multiple-state livestream, all below.

EVENT LIVESTREAM

Sydney and Melbourne

Our friends at the Ultimate Podcast Report assisted with rolling coverage of lockdown states!

See the full livestream of protests below:

SYDNEY COVERAGE

The heart of lockdown, Sydney, thousands took to the streets today. People in Greater Sydney and its surrounds have been living in lockdown for exactly four weeks (now entering fifth).

A crowd stretching as far as the eye can see moved through the CBD towards Town Hall amid a massive police presence — estimates suggest as many as 15,000 people taking part in the march.

Footage on social media shows the demonstrators walking down Broadway, one of the main arteries through Sydney’s inner-west, as part of the worldwide rallies.

Entire families can be seen among the crowd and few people are wearing face masks, making their voices heard against lockdown madness, vaccine coercion, loss of livelihoods and more:

Sydney residents reject restrictions!Photo: Timothy Swanston
Over 15,000 people in Sydney!Photo: youssra_rose
As far as the eye can see!Photo: Timothy Swanston

Protesters marched to Town Hall, where many stayed to have their voices heard:

There were reports of police isolating protesters in small groups and arresting them, both before and after the larger rallies, however everything remained largely peaceful.

These rallies follow community demonstrations in Sydney’s south-west earlier this week, in which two citizens were arrested for taking their voices to the streets.

They were protesting an ongoing “police compliance operation”, which is choking the local regions placed in lockdown, many of which were already struggling before the restrictions.

NSW Police say the march is unauthorised due to public health orders and many on social media are not happy about the mass gathering.

Speaking at a press conference today the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard called the protests “silly” given the rising number of Covid cases in NSW.

“We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s right to protest, but I actually think it is really silly,” he said.

A bit ‘silly’? Sounds like you’re real concerned about a ‘virus’, Mr. New World Order.

Sydney was not alone in their efforts.

MELBOURNE

In Melbourne, thousands of protesters turned out in the central business district chanting “freedom”.

Initially, the crowd was blocked by a police barrier when gathering in the CBD:

However, shortly after, protesters broke through the barricades due to sheer numbers in the area and began marching down the street towards Parliament House.

Protesters held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”

Thousands of Victorians take to the street!Photo: Silva_Mark
Pictured sign reads: ‘A country in distress’.Photo: BeanzieJones

The health minister in Victoria has also since blasted the mass gathering — saying he is “beyond disappointed” at protest action.

He blasted the movement as “ratbaggery efforts” and said those taking part “are on the side of the virus”.

“Please. be on the side of humanity, not the side of virus,” he said.

More Orwellian language being used in a state already attempting to entrench permanent restrictions.

BRISBANE

Police estimated 7,500 people gathered in the Botanic Gardens and marched through the city, many of whom were not wearing masks, in another successful Brisbane rally.

On the ground footage shows the movement was much bigger then reported!

A number of speakers took to the stage, before demonstrators marched through Brisbane:

Brisbane residents take to the streets!Photo: nicola1charles
Brisbane streets were full!Photo: Heidi Davoren

No arrests were made and no fines handed out for not wearing a mask.

“Under current restrictions, persons outdoors are not required to wear or carry a mask as long as physical distancing is maintained,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

CANBERRA

Harsh weather conditions didn’t deter protesters from heading to the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, where a large crowd gathered for speeches and an awareness campaign.

In the heart of the nation’s capital!Source: mmamv_australia

COFFS HARBOUR

A dedicated group of demonstrators also showed up in the Coffs Coast region today!

The following footage is an emotional speech by a nurse facing mandatory vaccination pushes:

We will add new developments from other states and regional locations here.

A car rally was planned for locked-down Adelaide, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity. The state is in the middle of a seven-day lockdown.

Premier Marshall says this is ‘on track’ to be lifted on Tuesday.

By Tott News

Continued:

Did This Syd Lockdown Protestor Actually ‘Punch’ A Police Horse? There’s Conflicting Evidence

25/7 UPDATE: NSW Police have found and charged the men involved in the viral photo.

24/7 ORIGINAL: Earlier today, an image went viral of an anti-lockdown protestor ‘punching’ a police horse in the face. However, footage of the incident has now emerged which calls that into question.

The viral image, originally shared by AFP News Agency, has sparked outrage online and rightly so. It really does look like a man in a “Free Speech” singlet is being violent with a horse, which is undoubtedly cruel.

The photo has now exploded all over social media, being shared across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

NSW Police also shared the image of troop horse Tobruk being shoved on Facebook, with many people commenting their support.

“I hope this called human is brought to justice,” one person wrote.

“Poor horse sending hugs and kisses and prayers to innocent horse,” another person commented.

Thankfully, Tobruk is recovering and safe – as confirmed by the ‘Mounted Unit NSW Police Force’ Facebook page.

“Our beautiful brave Tobruk safe and uninjured after his awful encounter today. Thank you again everyone for your words of support,” wrote the Mounted Unit Facebook page.

However, as much as we want someone who is cruel toward animals brought to justice, there is some conflicting footage that shows the man ‘shoving’ the horse, but not actually ‘punching’ it. Still awful either way, but if it’s the difference between someone getting arrested or not, it’s probably worth addressing.

Unfortunately, the only publicly available video footage of the incident comes from some conspiracy theorist whack-job,  so please, please, please take this video with a grain of salt.

At the end of the day, I’m sure NSW Police will take all the footage available into consideration when deciding on what happens to “Free Speech” guy.

But at least we can sleep at night knowing that Tobruk is ok and probably being fed loads of lil treaties for his bravery.

By Saskia Morrison-Thiagu

Continued:

Ray Hadley refutes horse-punching denialists with aerial footage

Ray Hadley has shared more evidence against two men charged with animal cruelty after allegedly assaulting a police horse.

The pair were photographed striking the horse during Sydney’s ‘freedom’ anti-lockdown protest.

While some have argued the photographs do not prove a ‘punch’, a listener has tipped Ray off to aerial footage from Nine News with a clearer view of the incident

By 2GB

Continued:

More charges loom over lockdown protests

Anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne. - AAP

Footage from social media, CCTV and body-worn cameras is being analysed by police to identify thousands of people who attended anti-lockdown protests in NSW and Victoria.

Some 57 people have been charged and 90 fines issued after more than 3000 protesters marched through Sydney's CBD on Saturday, demanding an end to the city's lockdown which is entering its fifth week.

A 33-year-old Surry Hills man and a 36-year-old man from Edensor Park faced court on Sunday after they allegedly struck a police horse during the protest.

The Edensor Park park man was also charged with assaulting a police officer.

More arrests are expected after a special strike force of detectives was set up to identify those who breached coronavirus restrictions to attend.

NSW Police said they have received 5000 tip-offs and identified more than 200 people who attended.

They are asking members of the public to upload any videos or photos of the protest to CrimeStoppers to track down more.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon denied officers were taken by surprise by the protest, saying they had been preparing for the event for a fortnight.

"What took us by surprise and what disappoints me greatly is the level of violence that people were prepared to use, that was unprecedented," he said.

"That's not Sydney and that's not what we expect. This is not a time for the community to be in conflict with police."

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was disgusted and heartbroken by those who had shown "utter contempt for their fellow citizens".

"We know that events like that can cause those super-spreading events," she said on Sunday, as the state recorded 141 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

"Please know that all of the sacrifices we've made over the last three or four weeks in particular have resulted in us being able to stabilise the growth in cases.

"We don't want a setback, and yesterday could have been a setback."

NSW Police Minister David Elliott condemned the thousands of "very selfish boofheads" who marched.

Similar protests occurred in Adelaide and Melbourne, which are both in lockdown, and in Brisbane which is not.

Some 73 people were fined and six people were arrested in Victoria for attending the protest.

Seven organisers could be charged with incitement after they were warned by police on Friday not to attend.

"They will be getting a knock on the door from us, they will be receiving fines, and they will be charged with appropriate offences," Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said.

He said police were in the process of reviewing hundreds of hours of footage from social media, CCTV and body-worn cameras and more fines would follow.

"Your faces are on the front page of our major newspapers. Your faces are on social media. Your faces are being published, wide and far," Mr Cornelius said.

"I would say that every Victorian who's outraged by this, if you know who those people are call CrimeStoppers and let us know who they are, and we will take action."

Their investigation will include the alleged assault of a mounted officer hurt by a flying bollard.

Premier Daniel Andrews described protesters as "selfish" but was reasonably confident it would not become a super-spreader event, given the state's 11 new cases had all been linked and were in isolation.

By AAP Newswire

Continued:

Over 6000 reports to police about illegal Sydney protest

There were nearly two reports for every person who went to the illegal anti-lockdown in Sydney at the weekend.Over 6000 reports have been made to NSW Police after it called on people to dob in anyone they knew at the rally.An estimated 3500 people attended and 60 people have been charged in relation to it.

Sydney lockdown protests
More than 6000 reports have been made to NSW Police about the illegal anti-lockdown rally in Sydney at the weekend. (Brook Mitchell)

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the sheer number of reports shows how upset members of the community were with people who went."(This) suggests to me there is zero tolerance out there for members of the community who want to do the wrong thing," Mr Elliott said.

"Keep the info coming folks because you're doing the police a fantastic service."

By Freya Noble

Continued:

Experts unpack the anti-lockdown COVID-19 protests that hit Australia's capital cities last weekend

a group of people walking down a street next to a car: Protesters gathered in Brisbane last weekend to vent their frustrations over COVID-19 lockdown, vaccination and mask-wearing. (ABC News: Heidi Davoren)
© Provided by ABC News Protesters gathered in Brisbane last weekend to vent their frustrations over COVID-19 lockdown, vaccination and mask-wearing. (ABC News: Heidi Davoren)

Academics say a lack of bipartisan leadership has contributed to anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination sentiment, urging politicians to present a united front and treat protesters with empathy to curb their dissatisfaction.

Images of thousands of so called "freedom" protesters marching through city streets last weekend left many Australians shocked and worried about the potential spread of COVID-19.

While crowd numbers are difficult to estimate, some put the Sydney crowd who broke lockdown rules at up to 15,000 and thousands also turned out in Melbourne.

Queensland police estimated the crowd in Brisbane was about 7,500.

There have been similar scenes in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Protesters waved placards with messages including: "Stand up take your freedom back", "COVID is an illusion" and "No vax passports".

There were other grievances on display too, such as claims about 5G, complaints about the media and signs referencing the discredited conspiracy theories of far-right group QAnon.

The anger was palpable in some places with small numbers of protesters scuffling with police and verbally abusing the media.

NSW Police arrested 63 people for breaching public health orders, 35 have been charged with various offences, including assaulting a police officer in execution of duty.

Two men aged 33 and 36 were charged with animal cruelty for allegedly striking police horses during the protest.

In Melbourne six people were arrested and dozens of fines were issued.

Queensland police are making enquiries.

In Brisbane a young mother with a baby strapped to her chest said she was "standing up for her children's future".

"I feel like we're being controlled and brainwashed by what they're feeding to us through our TVs," she said.

A Sydney construction worker told of financial hardship, "we're hurting … $600 a week does not cut the mustard," he said.

How to persuade people

University of Queensland political psychology academic Dr Frank Mols said while the protests appeared large, it was vital to keep the number of participants in context.

"The biggest risk here is what's called pluralistic ignorance," he said.

"That's the majority who are doing the right thing, who are complying, suddenly believing that a large proportion of the population isn't complying," he said.

Dr Mols said leaders should present a bipartisan front, so that individuals do not filter health messages and information through a political lens.

"There might be a naïve idea that the more evidence, the bigger the tables and the graphs and the numbers, the more compelling it will be and that's typically not the case, we know that from research," he said.

"The way to actually persuade people is to first step into their shoes to try to identify why they're reluctant to take that advice on board.

"To create a sense of shared interest and shared identity and that might actually give you an opportunity to influence them with that evidence that you have."

Is it a sign public trust has broken down?

PHD candidate and University of Queensland Global Change scholar Bernadette Hyland-Wood does research on crisis communications.

She also said policymakers should avoid "lumping people together in one group".

"Addressing those inconsistencies is very important, because if people feel they're not being heard by politicians and their day-to-day realities are not contemplated in how the policies are set, that's going to lead to lack of public trust," she said.

She said Australia's slow vaccine rollout has added to "a dissolution in public trust".

"Eighteen months ago, when we felt we were all in it together there was a sense of urgency," Ms Hyland-Wood said.

"This period in between availability of the vaccine — and where we are today — has allowed doubt and thoughts and misinformation to really promulgate … we have to be very proactive about combatting misinformation," she said.

Ms Hyland-Wood said the science showed there would always be a proportion of people who have extreme anti-vaxxer views and "they're unlikely to come to the other side".

But there are strategies everyone can use when communicating with community members who feel hesitant about getting vaccinated.

"Gently encouraging people, not marginalising them, not lumping them together, not being disrespectful is absolutely critical to our communications," she said.

"And having casual conversations with people that we come across at the check-out, at sporting events, colleagues.

"We always have to defer to the science and the medical practitioners, but I think making it [vaccination] a common conversation … having those communications and conversations with people around us will do a great deal."

A grassroots uprising, or something else?

New South Wales police said there were murmurs about a second rally being planned for Sydney this weekend, despite some organisers having their social media accounts and pages shut down.

Dr Mols questioned whether the protests were truly a homegrown, grassroots uprising.

"I think there's some of that, there’s some dissatisfaction and desperation of course.

"But I think there’s also a lot of cultivated anger, fomented anger by actors who've provoked and suddenly when things go haywire they run off and they hide behind the bushes.

"It's political expedience, they hope it'll provide problems for the government of the day and that's also really to be called out I think."

He said these "actors" could include so called "astroturfing groups" which seek to create the impression of widespread support for a particular issue.

"They can be all sorts of actors, they can be astroturf organisations funded by consultancy firms, they can be sports celebrities who join in for whatever reason, perhaps publicity, they can be regional politicians who see this as an opportunity to get attention," he said.

As the coronavirus emergency drags on, Dr Mols said politicians needed to present a united front.

"Sadly, there was a breakdown of that bipartisanship," he said.

"There were some attempts to do that, it broke down, because at some point the temptation became too high [it became] an opportunity for point scoring and I think both parties would be equally at fault here.

"That actually created the conditions for this to become re-politicised and therefore different sides of politics viewing the evidence in a different way.

"That's a shame and we're actually paying the price for that lack of leadership right now."

By Emma Pollard

Continued:

Who’s behind Australia’s anti-lockdown protests? The German conspiracy group driving marches

German-based Worldwide Demonstration helped coordinate rallies across Australia, with their message amplified by local anti-vaxx and ‘freedom’ influencers

A German-based conspiracy group helped to drive a series of anti-lockdown protests across Australia which saw dozens of people arrested and hundreds fined after violent clashes with police.

Police arrested more than 60 people and fined 107 more after a crowd of about 3,000 gathered in Sydney on Saturday to protest against the city’s lockdown.

Coordinated by a loose network of conspiracy-laced groups, including some with links to the far right, rallies took place in cities across Australia and the globe, with violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Sydney.

Protests against Covid restrictions have become common throughout the pandemic. While billed as peaceful protests, police said they were surprised by “the level of violence that people were prepared to use”.

Prior to Saturday, word of the protests was spread through a collection of Telegram, Instagram and Facebook posts, often amplified by large anti-vaccination and conspiracy pages that have amassed followings in the tens of thousands during the pandemic.

Protesters marched through central Sydney on Saturday, in breach of coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

The latest rallies have highlighted the role of a German-based group, named Worldwide Demonstration, which has helped to coordinate protests across the globe, including in various Australian cities.

The group has 45,000 Facebook followers and 70,000 Telegram subscribers on its main accounts alone, and even more on dedicated accounts set up for individual countries.

The group appears to be run out of Germany by individuals calling themselves “Freie Bürger Kassel”, or the Free Citizens of Kassel. Its main Facebook page is administered by two Germans and a third individual in the United Kingdom.

Posts about Saturday’s rallies in Australian cities began on its main Telegram account last month, on 26 June, when it announced the time and location for the Melbourne march. That post was seen by more than 20,000 people.

There were similar posts for marches in Townsville, Cairns, Gympie, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin on 10 July, and then Hobart, Sydney and Adelaide on 21 July, three days before the rally.

The group’s various Facebook and Telegram pages are awash with anti-vaccine and Covid-19 conspiracy theories, as well as other conspiratorial content such as QAnon and Islamophobia.

An investigation by Logically earlier this year revealed that Worldwide Demonstration was behind a wave of 129 coordinated events and protests in March. It also planned similar rallies in May.

The graphics it created for the July marches were shared and adapted into more localised Telegram channels under the banner of “Australia Freedom Rally”.

Messaging about the rallies was amplified by existing local groups and influencers.

In Australia, a Melbourne-based group has helped promote protests throughout the pandemic. The Guardian has previously revealed Harrison McLean, a 24-year-old IT programmer from Wantirna South, had become a key organiser of the protests in that city.

Like many of the organisers, those groups have a significant rightwing bent. In March the Guardian revealed McLean had outlined his plans to introduce his “freedom” group to more radical political views, while expressing deeply antisemitic opinions.

McLean has previously denied being involved in the far-right.

“I am not Far-Right. I am a Libertarian Populist, and I support Freedom of Speech,” McLean posted under an online username, Dominic, in one forum.

On Telegram, Saturday’s anti-lockdown rallies were also being promoted by Australians vs The Agenda channel, which has more than 12,000 members and was involved in the organisation of protests in Melbourne last year.

Part of the ‘freedom rally’ in front of Melbourne’s Flinders Street station

For more than a week, the Australians vs The Agenda Telegram channel was sharing graphics promoting the “Australia Freedom Rally” and asking for help distributing thousands of paper flyers for the “Worldwide Rally for Freedom”. Those flyers gave a hyperlink to the “Australian Freedom Rally” Telegram channel associated with the Free Citizens of Kassel.

Both groups promoted the protests through its Telegram and Instagram account, which together have more than 30,000 followers. RDA said it was being censored by Facebook in the week leading up to Saturday.

On Friday, Reignite posted locations and dates for the rallies to its 14,000 Telegram subscribers. The post received 19,400 views.

Details of the rally were also being shared by anti-vaccination groups, which do not necessarily have links to the far right.

The Australian Vaccination-risks Network Inc (AVN) was promoting the rally to its 39,533 followers on Facebook, while the Informed Medical Options party shared details of the event with its more than 30,000 followers.

Protesters wave an Australian flag during the anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday.
Protesters wave an Australian flag during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

Ariel Bogle, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, is investigating social media activity in the lead-up to Saturday’s protests. Her preliminary work suggests accounts affiliated with Worldwide Demonstration continue to spread information about the rallies internationally across a range of platforms.

Bogle said questions remained about the links Worldwide Demonstration has in Australia and the manner in which its content and message was adapted and shared by local groups to suit the Australian context.

“I’d say broadly we need to look more into it, but it has spread through the Australian context via a lot of the groups that were involved in previous demonstrations,” she said. “But it has moved into a broader community via a range of mechanisms, but in particular through niche influencers who speak to a specific community.”

While some of the organisers behind the protests have links to far-right elements, the protests were by no means a gathering of the far-right actors. Josh Roose, a senior research fellow specialising in extremism at Deakin University, said while there were elements of far-right rhetoric among the protestors, what they actually shared was a level of marginalisation and distrust in authority.

“There are some similarities and commonalities to the far right in terms of content but these protests are not driven by far right per se,” he said.

“What immediately distinguishes these sorts of protest groups from the far right is that they’re highly multicultural and they’re made up not just of angry men at a patriot rally but also women.

“In both Melbourne and Sydney the people and areas being represented are the areas that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. There’s also issues here with the cultures and communities often have a deep-seated distrust of government, often for good reason.”

By Christopher Knaus and Michael McGowan

Continued:

Inside Telegram fringe groups behind protests where conspiracy theories spread


On encrypted messenging apps used to stir up resentment towards lockdowns are threats to state premiers and wild, debunked conspiracies.

On encrypted messenging apps used to stir up tens of thousands of protesters at rallies in Sydney and Melbourne over the weekend are threats to state premiers and wild, debunked conspiracy theories about everything from forced vaccinations to “the great reset” of society.

Shared widely on Telegram and Facebook are messages about storming the press conferences of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with an army of “100,000”.

The proponents of “freedom rallies” in Australia’s two largest cities, attended by as many as 30,000 people, are devout followers of QAnon, members of the far-right and prominent anti-vaxxers who refer to the majority in lockdown as “masked zombie slaves” with “nothing inside them at all”.

“The “pandemic” is a cover for a currency reset (aka the Great Reset) and everything that comes along with it is a smokescreen,” one Telegram user wrote in the Sydney Freedom Rally group — an offshoot of the main organising group, the Worldwide Rally for Freedom.

Others call for more extreme measures.

Protesters climb the awning at Sydney Town Hall. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone
Protesters climb the awning at Sydney Town Hall. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone Source:News Corp Australia

“This won’t end until society collapses or there is a revolution,” another Telegram user wrote.

Protesters who were denounced by state leaders and the Prime Minister on Sunday were buoyed by a small group of politicians who celebrated their efforts to pushback against stay-at-home orders despite the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading in Melbourne and Sydney.

They include the usual suspects: Independent MP Craig Kelly, One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and Nationals MP George Christensen — all of whom are wildly popular on social media.

Mr Kelly wrote on Telegram that a photograph of a man allegedly punching a horse at the Sydney rally was “propaganda that would make (Nazi propagandist Joseph) Goebells proud” and was “a coup for the (vaccine) sellers”.

He wrote that the vaccine was “experimental”.

“Those protesting for freedom and against compulsory injections of experimental agents could be painted as violent thugs that abuse animals,” he wrote.

Mr Christensen even spoke at a rally in the Queensland city of Mackay after promoting the event to “freedom lovers” in the days before Saturday’s march.

A protester dressed as Donald Trump. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone
A protester dressed as Donald Trump. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone Source:News Corp Australia

In the same groups, plans are being made for another protest on Saturday, September 18. But many who attended the weekend’s protests are already voicing concern about the prospect of being identified in the masses of people and hit with a fine.

Those who attended were whipped into a frenzy by speakers, including TikTok comedian Jon-Bernard Kairouz, who was fined for attending.

“I must say I’ve crunched the numbers, I don’t think the cases are going to go up tomorrow,” he told the crowd.

“But from what I’ve calculated there’s over 50,000 people here today.”

Videos from the speech showed the man standing next to him was wearing a vest featuring one of the extreme conspiracy theorists the world has ever known — David Icke.

Icke believes the world is ruled by an ancient race of reptiles.

Police said they were shocked by the level of violence used by protesters.

“What took us by surprise and what disappoints me so greatly is the level of violence that people were prepared to use. That was unprecedented. That’s not Sydney,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “absolutely disgusted and disappointed” in those who attended the protest, warning it could lead to a “super-spreading” event.

“We don’t want a setback, and yesterday could have been a setback. Time will tell,” she said on Sunday.

“But I’m just so utterly disgusted, disappointed and heartbroken that people don’t consider the safety and wellbeing of their fellow citizens.”

Protesters gather in front of Parliament House in Melbourne. Picture: Diego Fedele/Getty Images
Protesters gather in front of Parliament House in Melbourne. Picture: Diego Fedele/Getty Images Source:Getty Images

Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys described the events that occurred on Saturday as “violent, filthy, risky behaviour”.

He said a strike force had been set up to investigate the protest and urged anyone with video footage, photos or any information to submit it to Crime Stoppers.

“The investigation into people’s behaviour yesterday will continue for some time, so I expect over the next few days and perhaps weeks that number of penalty infringement notices will continue to be high,” Mr Worboys said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said those who attended should reconsider their priorities.

“We can’t vaccinate against selfishness. These people should be ashamed.”

By Rohan Smith

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