Australia riots over lockdown lead to pepper spray and 235 arrests

One officer was trampled and several had to be taken to hospital

Anti-lockdown protesters clash with Victoria Police in the suburb of Richmond. Photo: Getty
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Australian police arrested 235 protesters and six police officers were taken to hospital as an anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protest in Melbourne spiralled out of control on Saturday.

The demonstrators hurled projectiles before breaking through police lines near Richmond, an inner suburb, and were soaked with pepper spray by officers.

One officer was trampled and 10 overall were injured during the confrontation.

Victoria has suffered more than any other Australian state during the pandemic, losing 831 people out of the country’s total Covid-19 death toll of 1,148. The city experienced more than 200 days of lockdown across 2020 and 2021.

On Sunday, the state reported more than 500 new cases and one death.

Travel in and out of Melbourne by public transport and car ground to a halt to prevent the anti-lockdown rally from reaching the city centre on Saturday.

But demonstrators converged in Richmond before marching east to Hawthorn to avoid checkpoints aimed at keeping them out of the central business district.

Hundreds, most of them without masks, marched in the middle of the road chanting “no more lockdown” and “sack Dan Andrews”, in reference to the state’s premier.

Police arrested 235 protesters, with 193 facing fines for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions, the Victoria Police said.

Dozens are facing charges, including assault and riotous behaviour.

Anti-lockdown protesters gathered despite current restrictions prohibiting large outdoor gatherings. Photo: Getty

In August, after an anti-lockdown rally turned violent in Melbourne, Victoria Police's Chief Commissioner Shane Patton revealed that far-right extremists were involved in the demonstrations.

More than 218 people were arrested at that rally in the city centre.

Mr Patton said that the gathering was “a mixture of a range of people with no clear leadership. Many people came in with an intention to confront police with anger and confrontation on their mind”.

A planned anti-lockdown protest in Sydney on Saturday failed to take place, with “no real protest activity” recorded in the city, according to New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell.

Across the state, which recorded 13 Covid-19 deaths and almost 1,100 new cases on Sunday, there were 32 people arrested in connection with planned demonstrations.

More than 1,000 people gathered in Perth, Western Australia, where there are no Covid restrictions beyond the tightly controlled state border and the need to quarantine on arrival. They carried placards including one stating “DNA-altering vaccine”.

New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, warned on Sunday the state's hospitals may be “technically overwhelmed” next month as intensive care units prepare to accommodate triple their usual capacity as the state eases out of lockdown.

The Victoria government has also announced that most restrictions are expected to be lifted by the end of November as the state’s fully vaccinated population reaches 80 per cent.

Updated: September 19, 2021, 1:25 PM