Clashes erupted with police in Melbourne, Australia after a crowd of anti-lockdown protesters gathered to demand an end to weeks of draconian restrictions, despite an all-out effort by authorities to prevent demonstrations.
The protesters, who reportedly numbered in the hundreds, showed up in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond on Saturday morning to denounce government lockdown policies. Police previously attempted to shut down all transport into Melbourne’s Central Business District using a series of checkpoints, but that merely prompted organizers to shift locations.
— David Estcourt (@davidestcourt) September 18, 2021
Brief clashes with officers were captured on film, with protesters seen hurling bottles as police responded with pepper spray. At one chaotic moment, demonstrators crashed through a police line, setting off a melee as the crowd proceeded down the road.
— Olivia Jenkins (@byoliviajenkins) September 18, 2021
A massive police response was seen in aerial photos taken by local media, showing riot lines closing in on a crowd of demonstrators.
#BREAKING: Anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne are defying police warnings and are staging demonstrations in the city today.
— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) September 18, 2021
The law enforcement presence involved more than 2,000 officers, according to local reports.
— Lana Murphy (@LanaMurphy) September 18, 2021
Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne is currently under its sixth lockdown since the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off in late 2019, with residents required to remain at home barring a few exceptions for “essential” work and travel. The shutdowns have prompted a spate of protests across Australia in recent weeks, including in other major cities like Sydney.
Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has seen a spike in coronavirus infections since August, with health officials pinning new outbreaks on the more contagious Delta variant. There are currently just shy of 5,000 active Covid cases in Victoria, with 535 new infections reported over the last 24 hours, according to Victoria health authorities.