One woman, who would not share her name but she was from France, told media “we’re not criminal, we’re not doing anything wrong”.
“Everyone here have families, they’re here with their friends, they don’t want to get arrested,” she said.
“There’s so many people who would love to be here today but they can’t.”
Some protesters said they were planning to potentially gather again at Albert Park this afternoon.
In one incident, a man charged at police arresting another person and began throwing punches before he was also arrested.
Another man was arrested by police after telling officers any fines would be “unlawful”. His white t-shirt sported black hand-written scrawl about Bill Gates.
“We’re trying to educate people, we’re trying to tell people what’s going on,” he said after police had him handcuffed.
Another woman toting a hand-painted sign which said ‘end the lockdown, end the suffering’ told the gathered media through tears she was “asking the world to help us”.
Police told the woman to move away, as she had already received a fine for breaking the Chief Health Officer’s stay-at-home directions.
Asked about the heavy police presence in central Melbourne on Saturday Premier Daniel Andrews revealed his own car was stopped on the way to work this morning.
“There is a very visible, very significant police presence in the city,” he said.
“Some people have forecast that they in a selfish, dangerous and unlawful way protest and police are taking appropriate steps. It is absolutely selfish for people to be out there protesting.
“The only protest we should be engaged in, the only argument, the only fight we should be engaged in as against this virus. Let’s not any of us do anything that might jeopardise this strategy stopping let’s not any of us do anything that might see more coronavirus cases rather than less. That is just not worth it.”
Anti-lockdown activists have drawn thousands of their followers onto encrypted messaging apps as Facebook blocks their social media pages. A channel appeared on chat app Telegram on Tuesday and by Thursday night had garnered more than 5300 members.
Prominent Melbourne-based anti-lockdown activist Raph Fernandez told his followers on Thursday he no longer supports the protest.
“I feel like we are playing right into the hands of authority, at least in Melbourne,” he said in a Facebook live video seen by thousands.
Police have drawn criticism in recent days from legal and civil liberty groups for their treatment of alleged organisers accused of inciting the protests.
Zach is a reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at email@example.com