Unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to City Hall in the CBD, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “truth.”
There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities described as unauthorized protest activity. Police have confirmed that a number of arrests were made after objects were thrown at officers.
NSW Police said they recognize and support the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but the protest was in 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 who supports people’s rights to protest… but right now we have cases exploding and people think it’s okay to go out and maybe to be close at a protest, ”said State Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
In Melbourne, thousands of maskless protesters marched into 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.
As of Friday, 15.4% of the country’s population aged 16 and over had received both vaccines for COVID-19.
“We took the leap, we solved the problem. We are achieving the targets we need to achieve, one million doses per week are now being distributed, ”Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “We are on track to achieve what we want to be by the end of the year and potentially sooner than that. ”
The federal government has said it will send thousands more doses of Pfizer to Sydney, while adults in Australia’s largest city are also urged to “strongly consider” AstraZeneca due to the scarcity of supplies from Pfizer.