Police have arrested 235 people during violent anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne today, with 10 officers injured.
Of those, 193 were arrested for breaching COVID-19 restrictions, while others were detained for other offences, including allegedly assaulting police as well as drug and weapons offences.
More than 2000 police had gathered in the CBD this morning in a bid to shut down the planned protests.
Hundreds of demonstrators – many of whom are not wearing masks – then gathered in the inner suburb of Richmond at about 12pm, in a move apparently designed to avoid police.
Commander Mark Galliott from Victoria Police described the operation as a “success” in the CBD.
“We were able to mobilise all of our police patrols and resources to confront those groups and arrest those that were breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions,” Commander Galliott said.
Ten police officers were injured, with six taken to hospital.
The officers sustained a range of injuries including torn muscles, a broken elbow, a broken nose, a broken finger and bruising.
“What we saw today was a group of protesters who came together, not to protest freedoms but simply to take on and have a fight with the police,” Commander Galliott said.
“What we saw were angry, aggressive young males there to fight the police, not to protest about freedom.
“What we don’t come to work for is get trampled, assaulted and end up going home with broken bones”.
Police initially estimated between 6000 and 7000 would attend anti-lockdown attendees in the CBD but only about 500 to 700 protesters were there today.
Three police are in hospital and Commander Galliott said they were “in good spirits” and were expected to be discharged later today.
Commander Galliott said it “saddened” him to see people acting that way towards police, who were there to “protect the community and enforce the Chief Health Officer’s directions”.
“All we want to do is end lockdowns, get out of the lockdowns that we have at the moment and back to normality,” he said.
“The only way that we can gain freedom as a society is to work together and achieve those vaccination rates.”
Commander Galliott said while he hadn’t costed the operation, it would’ve been in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
Images showed some demonstrators being chased by police and held by officers.
Travel to and from Melbourne’s CBD by public transport and car was halted to prevent anti-lockdown protesters from gathering in the CBD.
Hundreds marched in the centre of the road chanting “no more lockdown” and “sack Dan Andrews”.
Some held banners with the words “No more lockdown”.
Others claimed the mental health toll on people was too great.
Until 2pm today, no trains, trams and buses were running to central Melbourne. Services terminated at suburban stations.
Limited shuttle buses were running from key locations for residents who are permitted to travel.
Meanwhile, 20 people were arrested in Sydney as NSW Police staged a major operation to prevent planned protest activity.
Protests also took place near the Brisbane and Adelaide CBDs today.
Police clashed with anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protests in Queensland today.
Thousands of people gathered in Brisbane CBD’s Botanic Gardens, before shifting their demonstration into a march through the city streets.
There were several arrested during the Brisbane protests, however the majority of attendees were peaceful.
Protest activity also took place in Adelaide’s Rundle Park.