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Melbourne anti-lockdown protest ‘most violent’ in the city in 20 years

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Victoria Police said more than 4000 people converged on the city.

The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police said yesterday's anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne's CBD were among the most violent he has seen in two decades.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton described the rally, which attracted thousands of people, as "disgraceful".

"What we saw yesterday was probably one of the most violent protests we've seen in nearly 20 years. That is astonishing," Mr Patton said.

"The protest was held under the banner of a 'freedom rally'. It was anything but.

"All I can say is … it was tremendously disappointing. The risk that those people have posed to the rest of the community is disgraceful and selfish."

READ MORE: Victoria records 65 new local cases, including 16 reported yesterday

More than $1.1 million in fines will be handed down after six police officers were hospitalised and 218 people were arrested during the massive anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne.

Victoria Police said more than 4000 people converged on the city in protest of the extension of the state's COVID-19 lockdown.

Three people are in custody for allegedly assaulting police.

The clashes came a day before Victoria marked the first day the entire state is in lockdown. A range of tough new restrictions are in place. Even primary school age children are being urged to wear face masks.

The protests have the potential to set back Victoria's bid to control the Delta outbreak, a leading clinical epidemiologist has said.

But we won't know to what effect for a few more weeks.

"Unfortunately we're not really going to know for several weeks because it does take a while for the spread to occur, for people to present for testing, and these people may be reluctant to present for testing," Said Professor Nancy Baxter, head of the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health.

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"So hopefully this won't set us back but it does have the potential to. And so what I really hope is that no matter what circumstance you are, no matter where you've been, that you do come forward for testing as soon as you develop symptoms.

"The contact tracers won't hold that you were at the protest against you."

READ MORE: Hundreds fined over Sydney lockdown protest

Every arrested protestor will be fined $5452 for breaching Chief Health Officer directions, meaning the arrest fines alone tally $1,188,536.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said: "the majority of those who attended came with violence in mind".

"The behaviour seen by police was so hostile and aggressive that they were left with no choice but to use all tactics available to them," the spokeswoman said.

"For the first time during lockdown protests, police were forced to use a range of non-lethal options including pepper ball rounds and OC foam cannisters in an effort to disperse the crowd.

"Seven police officers were injured, including two with suspected broken noses, one with a broken thumb and the others with concussions.

Melbourne anti-lockdown protests, Saturday August 21, 2021.

"One officer was also treated at the scene for a cut to his neck that didn't require hospitalisation."

Hordes of protesters gathered around Elizabeth and Lonsdale streets in the CBD with Transdev warning services were delayed due to the planned event.

Thousands of armed and mounted police marched towards demonstrators in full force, making multiple arrests as they moved in on the rally.

READ MORE: Statewide lockdown for Victoria from 1pm

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Earlier, at a press conference announcing the expansion of the lockdown into regional Victoria, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton slammed plans for the protest.

"It's tagged as a freedom demonstration, it's anything but," he said.

"It's just selfish."

READ MORE: Some COVID-19 measures part of our future: PM

He said encrypted communications involved in the organisation of the event made it difficult to know how many people would join.

He warned anybody who attended and was intercepted by police would face a massive fine.

READ MORE: Record COVID-19 case spike for NSW anti-lockdown protests, Saturday August 21, 2021

Premier Daniel Andrews warned that if people ignored lockdown restrictions this weekend "well then next week it will be like Sydney", where cases have boomed to hundreds of new infections every day.

"Protesting does not work against this virus," he said.

A similar gathering occurred in Sydney at midday, with multiple arrests and violent scenes, but was disbanded by police just after 2pm.

Brisbane anti-lockdown protests also saw thousands in attendance but authorities have deemed this one a more peaceful gathering.

READ MORE: Police flood Sydney CBD amid protest warning

Source: 9News

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