Melbourne anti-lockdown riots: Dozens arrested after violent protests take over CBD

AAP
VideoPolice surrounded by anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne

Victorians are waking up to a sixth coronavirus lockdown, put in place to contain an outbreak in Melbourne’s west, after hundreds rallied in the city against the measures.

About 2000 protesters, some carrying placards and most not wearing masks, descended on Flinders Street about 7pm on Thursday, before moving into Swanston Street — as police tried to disperse them.

Video of the rally showed people walking through the city chanting “sack Dan Andrews” and “no more lockdown”, while two officers appeared to spray protesters with pepper spray.

One officer suffered minor cuts and abrasions after he was pushed to the ground and kicked by several demonstrators.

A flare is let off during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Camera IconA flare is let off during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021. Credit: DANIEL POCKETT/AAPIMAGE
Protesters are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Camera IconProtesters are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021. Credit: DANIEL POCKETT/AAPIMAGE

Police made 15 arrests during the protest including four people for allegedly breaching bail, activating a flare and hindering police, and handed out fines to 16 others for various health directions breaches.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said four of those arrested or fined were known as protest organisers. They are expected to face court on charges such as incitement.

Police will continue to review video footage to identify more protesters.

“Police are, together with the vast majority of Victorians who are doing the right thing, outraged that a small minority of people continue to engage in deliberate breaches of the CHO directions,” Mr Cornelius said.

The seven-day, statewide lockdown began at 8pm on Thursday after Victoria recorded eight new cases of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Protesters are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Camera IconProtesters are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021. Credit: DANIEL POCKETT/AAPIMAGE
Police are seen heading up Hosier Lane during anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Camera IconPolice are seen heading up Hosier Lane during anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021. Credit: DANIEL POCKETT/AAPIMAGE

Premier Daniel Andrews said the decision to lock down was “incredibly painful” but there was no alternative and he was determined to avoid an extended lockdown.

“The alternative is not to be locked down for seven days, it’s being locked down for seven weeks or more, locked down until we get to 80 per cent vaccination and that may not happen until Christmas time,” he said.

Thousands of businesses have been forced to shut again, as the state government faced criticism that not enough warning was given before Thursday’s announcement.

Further financial support for businesses is expected to be announced on Friday, with those that applied for grants during the last lockdown to receive payments again.

Protesters and police are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Camera IconProtesters and police are seen at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, Thursday, August 5, 2021. Credit: DANIEL POCKETT/AAPIMAGE

But Victoria’s tourism council said the current support was “simply no longer adequate to sustain businesses”, encouraging the government to push for the reinstatement of JobKeeper.

Meanwhile, health officials remain concerned about two mystery cases - an infected teacher at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina and a Maribyrnong man in his 20s.

The teacher, who lives in the Hobsons Bay area, has already passed the virus to her partner and two relatives, with fears she may have unknowingly spread the virus in the community while infectious.

Thousands of close contacts are isolating and there are more than 80 exposure sites, including two Virgin flights from Sydney to Melbourne and Melbourne to Launceston on Monday.

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