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‘Selfish’: Premier slams anti-lockdown protesters as crowds fizzle

Earlier this week, more than 1300 people indicated that they were either interested in attending or planning to attend the protest at the running track that encircles Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The page promoting the event claimed the walk is legal, “allowing citizens to come together, get healthy and talk about getting our freedoms back”, organisers wrote.

Police were at The Tan for the so-called “freedom walks” earlier and in bigger numbers than at the beginning of last Saturday’s demonstrations.

They blocked all entrances to the Shrine of Remembrance off early and patrolled the parks so that no one had a chance to gather.

There was no organised gathering at The Tan – at no point on Saturday did crowds of people stand together at the location.

In Fitzroy Gardens, another location promoted by organisers, police questioned a small group of protesters, with some demonstrators conceding to police they were more than five kilometres away from their homes.

Only 10 to 15 protesters turned up to the inner Melbourne park, outnumbered by the hundreds of police including those in riot gear.

Small groups were moved on by police and warned that if they returned, they would be fined.

One older woman had her signs, including one who said ‘Open Our Churches’, confiscated by officers.

Police moved to Carlton Gardens after midday when anti-lockdown and conspiracy theorist messaging channels touted it as the new meeting spot.

But there was almost no protest action at the site.

Police making an arrest after a scuffle with protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance last Saturday.

Police making an arrest after a scuffle with protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance last Saturday.Credit:Justin McManus

The organiser of the Tan rally Tony Pecora – a former candidate for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party – appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday via video link after his arrest on two counts of incitement.

The court heard Mr Pecora used an online alias to create anti-lockdown protest events on Facebook, including the planned protest at the Tan.

Hundreds of anti-lockdown protestors converged on the Shrine of Remembrance and later Albert Park Lake last weekend, with intense clashes between police and demonstrators resulting in 17 arrests and more than 190 fines being issued to those breaking stay at home directions.

Anti-lockdown advocates were sharing details of the Fitzroy Gardens protest online on Saturday morning, with photos emblazoned with the phrase “Human Rights Matter. End The Lockdown Now. Take Back Our State”.

On Saturday, Mr Andrews slammed protesters at the events, described them as “selfish” and their actions “unlawful”.

Police also urged protesters on Friday to be “less selfish and a bit more grown up”, with Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius admitting it was “incredibly frustrating” to have to continuously urge people not to attend the protests.

“To be honest, I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit. None of us want to do that and I’m sick of it, really,” he said.

– With Simone Fox Koob

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