Central Sydney shut down for several hours this afternoon as thousands of anti-lockdown protesters breached COVID-19 restrictions to march in a ‘Freedom Rally’, sparking brawls between police & protesters.
In scenes that have shocked many, several thousand people marched through Sydney’s inner-city of Camperdown, where Police were unable to stop them. They then proceeded to march down George street, towards Broadway and onwards to Hyde Park.
Stepped outside my house in Chippendale 5 mins ago to see some intense police brutality – assuming this is an anti-lockdown protest that police diverted from Broadway pic.twitter.com/TOdDTf7kNi
— Amy Thomas (@amyclairethomas) July 24, 2021
This is despite the city being in a strict lockdown.People in Greater Sydney and its surrounds have been surviving in lockdown for exactly four weeks, as an outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant continues to spread. Many of the protesters were carrying placards with anti-vaccination messages and the majority appeared not to be wearing masks.
Police confirmed several people have been arrested at the rally and said today’s protest is in breach of public health orders.
As demonstrators were gathering in Sydney, New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard revealed a record number of new coronavirus cases had been detected and pleaded with the public to stay at home. A total of 163 in the last 24 hours have been detected.
A state of emergency has been declared in NSW as the Covid situation spirals out of control.
“We really need our community, particularly in south-western and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home,” Hazzard said.
However, people don’t seem to be heeding Mr Hazzard’s words. People are out of work, unable to provide for themselves and their families. They are frustrated and angry.
Smaller demonstrations were also held in Melbourne, where flares were set off outside Parliament House, and in Brisbane, where hundreds gathered in the city’s Botanic Gardens.
NSW Police have said that they rejected an application for the protest to go ahead. Under the current public health orders, people who are not from the same household cannot gather in groups of more than two outside. Even then, it has to be for exercise.
In a statement, NSW Police said it “recognises and supports” the right to exercise free speech and peaceful assembly but the protest was in breach of the current COVID-19 public health orders.
“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community,” the statement read.
More details to come.