In Sydney, unmasked participants marched from Victoria Park to Central Business District Town Hall on Saturday, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “truth.”
There was a heavy police presence in the town, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities described as unauthorized protest activity.
Police confirmed that a number of arrests were made after crowds broke through barriers and dumped plastic bottles and plants.
Police in New South Wales (NSW) said they recognize and support the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a violation of public health orders.
“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the community at large,” a police statement said.
The protest comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state hit another record with 163 new infections in the past 24 hours.
Greater Sydney has been locked up for four weeks, with residents only able to leave their homes with a reasonable excuse.
“We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly the one supporting people’s rights to demonstrate… the other at a demonstration,” said Brad Hazzard, state health minister.
Stephen Jones, Member of the National Parliament in Sydney, called the protesters “selfish and reckless idiots”.
“No one wants to be locked up. This is exactly how you continue.
In Melbourne, thousands of demonstrators without masks gathered in the city center chanting “freedom”. Some of them lit flares as they gathered outside the Victoria State Parliament.
They were holding banners, including one that read, “This is not a virus, but total government control over the population.
A car protest rally is also planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests for illegal activity.
After escaping much of the first pandemic unharmed, around half of Australia’s 25 million are now confined to several cities.
There is growing anger at the restrictions – which are often only partially observed – and the failure of the Conservative government to provide adequate supplies of vaccines.
Only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.