Thousands marched in ‘for freedom’ rallies in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, with the largest crowd in the Victorian capital as protests against state government legislation on the pandemic intensified.
Protesters marched from Victoria State Parliament, down Bourke Street and to Flagstaff Gardens, carrying Australian flags and placards bearing anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown and anti-government slogans, while chanting ” kill Bill “,” kill Dan Andrews “and” “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi”.
The rally drew a significant increase in numbers after weeks of protests against the Victorian Prime Minister’s Public Health and Welfare (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021, which had already peaked over the weekend last, when thousands marched through central Melbourne in a protest that included a gallows of props, protesters posing with nooses and chants of “hang Dan Andrews”.
The bill introduced by the Victorian government would allow the Prime Minister to declare a pandemic and a state of emergency indefinitely, give the Minister of Health the power to make general ordinances on public health and grant authorized officers the power to detain people in quarantine.
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews scrambled to pass pandemic legislation before the state of emergency ended on December 15.
If the bill is not passed, the Victorian government may not have the legal framework to enforce and create Covid-19 orders to manage the pandemic. The bill was criticized by the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar Association and the Human Rights Law Center, who say it lacks oversight and transparency.
Speakers at the Melbourne rally included right-wing fringe specialist Morgan C Jonas and Harrison McLean, who was charged earlier this year with incitement for allegedly encouraging people to violate the director of health’s instructions regarding the protests of Melbourne on September 18, in the midst of the city’s sixth lockdown.
Presidents claimed credit for the pandemic bill delayed in parliament this week and called on the crowd to “do whatever is necessary to rid our parliament of these treacherous politicians.”
At least one protester was arrested before being taken away by police.
A counter-demonstration organized by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, a coalition of progressive activists and left-wing organizations, which gathered at the Eight Hour Day Monument in Carlton, drew a crowd of around 300 to 500 people.
While it initially looked like a confrontation was imminent, anti-fascist protesters took a route through Carlton rather than making their way into the CBD.
Nahui Jimenez, an organizer of the campaign, said on Saturday that the purpose of the rally was to draw attention to conspiracy theorists and far-right elements that were a hallmark of “freedom” rallies.
“Hostility to vaccines and other important health measures has become a gateway to the far right around the world,” Jimenez said. “We will not allow fascist groups to spread their sectarianism and occupy our streets without resistance. “
The Victorian parliament was the scene of ugly scenes this week as protesters took to the front steps to demonstrate against proposed pandemic laws.
A crowd staged a mock execution of the prime minister using a wooden gallows on Monday evening, while another protester witnessed an earlier protest with three nooses, apparently referring to the minions who supported The law project. It was also reported that figures associated with the neo-Nazi movement joined the protests.
In Sydney on Saturday, several thousand protesters also marched through the CBD.
The sound of bagpipes echoed through York Street as a man dressed in white shouted “Destroy the New World Order” and others chanted “Walk with us”.
A Sydney protester carried a “Kill Bill” sign, despite the absence of such a bill in New South Wales, while others waved Australian flags.
United Australia Party Leader and MP Craig Kelly addressed the crowd at Martin Place after attending a protest in Melbourne last weekend.
“We will hold every politician and every bureaucrat accountable for forcing injections into the Australian people,” he said, shouting “fire them all”.
Party founder and former senator Clive Palmer was at the sister rally in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
He has criticized a number of politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who he says has “abandoned Australia”.
When a protester giving a speech asked the crowd in Brisbane what they think of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, someone shouted ‘Hang the bitch’.
This came after Queensland MP Brittany Lauga contacted police after she and other members of the state parliament received an email containing “threats of terrorism, extremism and violence “.
“I understand that local doctors have received death threats and other threat letters,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I unequivocally condemn these threats of violence, terrorism and extremism. It is not a peaceful demonstration.
Key Victorian crossbench MP Andy Meddick revealed on Friday that his daughter Kielan was allegedly attacked in a Fitzroy street the night before and suffered a head injury after being confronted by a stranger about spray painting from an anti-vax poster.
The incident drew condemnation from Morrison and the Victorian prime minister.
Experts say protesters in Melbourne capitalized on criticism of the bill to maintain momentum as anti-government protests, which started as anti-lockdown protests last year, have turned into protests against the mandate vaccines in July and were fed by outraged construction workers. September after the two-week shutdown of the state’s construction industry.