Thousands walked out to protest against Covid vaccine mandates in cities across Australia, after the regional authorities made inoculation compulsory for a wide range of employees.
In Melbourne, protesters gathered outside the local parliament on Sunday, marching through the city center and bringing traffic to a halt. Among the slogans seen and heard at the demonstration were “my body, my choice” and “sack Dan Andrews,” the latter being a reference to the premier of the state of Victoria.
Andrews, who has been in office since 2014, has drawn ire for his new public health laws. Passed earlier this month, they give Victoria’s government more leeway in imposing lockdowns at the regional level. Last month, the authorities put in place a sweeping vaccine mandate that included a very broad list of workplaces where vaccination would be compulsory, essentially covering almost all employees in the state.
The ‘Freedom Rally’ passed almost without incident under the watchful eye of police. One 59-year-old woman was arrested for assaulting an officer. Verbal altercations between the protesters and bystanders were reported by the Australian media. Water was also reportedly poured on the procession from high-rise apartment buildings.
Some of those who assembled had brought along their children – a move the organizers of the event had called for.
Melbourne has been a hotspot of anti-mandate protests in Australia of late, with demonstrators taking to the streets on a weekly basis. Similar scenes played out on Sunday in Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, where people voiced concerns over vaccine mandates for healthcare and education workers in the state of New South Wales.
Ahead of the reopening of Queensland’s border to only vaccinated travelers from other states, anti-mandate rallies across the region also drew several thousand activists.
The protests come amid reports of dozens of Omicron cases being detected across Australia, with the federal authorities shortening the waiting time before a booster dose can be administered from six to five months.