Anti-lockdown protesters are marching shoulder-to-shoulder through the streets of Sydney despite NSW recording its highest number of daily infections since the Covid-19 outbreak started.
A large crowd marched through the CBD towards Town Hall amid a massive police presence on Saturday afternoon (NZ time) — some on the ground estimate there were as many as 15,000 people taking part.
Police have used pepper spray to control chaotic crowds, with hundreds of people not wearing masks.
Officers on horses are following the crowds as they make their way towards Town Hall.
St James and Museum railway stations were forced to close due to the protests.
In a statement, NSW Police said Saturday’s protest was “a breach of Covid-19 health orders” and that “a number of people” had been arrested so far.
“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.”
Footage posted earlier today shows police arresting protesters in nearby Chippendale.
Twitter user Amy Thomas wrote: “Stepped outside my house in Chippendale 5 mins ago to see some intense police brutality – assuming this is an anti-lockdown protest that police diverted from Broadway.
“It’s not a cause I support but the license that officers were taking here is something that concerns me. I saw several arrests and open threats from officers to ‘get people’.”
Police can be seen on horseback and on foot. Police appeared to handcuff one man from the scuffle.
Sydney Morning Herald reporter Georgina Mitchell tweeted photos of a “huge anti-lockdown protest in Sydney’s CBD”. Marchers were chanting “freedom”, she said.
Melbourne rocked by protests
There are also protests happening in Melbourne. At least 1000 protesters have also gathered in the city’s CBD.
The health minister there also 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.
A car rally is also planned for locked-down Adelaide, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.
New South Wales recorded 163 new cases overnight – the highest daily infection tally so far.
Forty-five of those cases were infectious while in the community.
The figure is an alarming climb from yesterday’s record of 136, which prompted Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare a state of emergency and openly plead for more vaccines from the federal government.
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