Anti-lockdown protests have sparked in Melbourne this week in the ongoing saga of coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic crisis. The protests come as a result of building tensions as case numbers in Australia’s second largest city continue to rise and the government has mandated a two week lockdown to try and stop the spread.
An estimated 2,000 protestors took to Melbourne’s streets for a roughly eight hour long protest. Despite the initial protest being centred around the topic of mandated vaccines for construction workers, far-right and extremist groups seem to have overtaken and hijacked the protests. Police deputy commissioner Ross Guenther said the protests appeared directionless and unorganised, seemingly descending into chaos. He was quick to condemn the protestors: “There were others who were not … they are not there to protest, they are there for a fight, pretend to be protesting,” and urged people to stay home in the following few days.
In response to the protests police fired pepper balls and rubber pellets into the crowds and arrested over 60 people on Tuesday 21st September 2021. Protestors had broken the lockdown regulations and taken to the streets, blocking a highway and causing damage to property. Three police officers were reported as injured following the clashes.
The extended lockdown has been a point of ongoing tension in the state of Victoria. Workers’ union leader and state premier Dan Andrews expressed his disappointment regarding the public health issue: “Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of COVID – in fact it only helps the virus to spread”.
This sentiment was echoed by other public health officials and comes as Victoria and NSW case numbers continue to reach all time highs at roughly 1,000 new cases per day. The government continues with its hope to vaccinate as many people as possible against the virus.