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Anti-lockdown protest never arrived, but the movement is just getting started

Throughout Newtown, where rallies were rumoured to have been planned, a community known for its sympathy for protest actions generally shared her sentiment.

A large homemade sign propped up early in the morning at Camperdown Memorial Rest Park read, “You give protest a bad name”. On local social media sites, people thanked the police for keeping protesters out.

At Hyde Park police officers gathered in groups at every entrance from early in the morning. No protesters were seen by the media who watched throughout the day.

On the social media channels of some prominent figures in the emerging anti-lockdown protest movement, it was claimed that the rallies authorities feared were never planned in the first place.

One leading figure from last weekend’s rally warned people against attending, saying it was a “trap” set by the media. Others described it as a “false flag” event, using a term favoured by conspiracy theorists who believe governments agents are behind events like pandemics or mass shootings.

Another message being shared on social media showed a flyer for a rally at Hyde Park, tagged with the message, “This event is a police set-up, do not attend.”

Kas Ross, an academic who researches the growing far right movement, said that even though authorities managed to avert protests on Saturday, the movement was likely to grow as long as the lockdown continued.

Mounted police at Hyde Park anticipated another protest in the city.

Mounted police at Hyde Park anticipated another protest in the city.Credit:Nick Moir

She said the anti-lockdown movement in Sydney is at a similar stage of growth as it was in Melbourne a year ago.

Dr Ross, who follows the movement on social media platforms, said that those who attended last week’s rally included protesters concerned about loss of civil liberties, as well as opportunists – often from right-wing fringe politics – seeking to raise their public profiles.

It was backed and promoted on social media by an international protest group called Worldwide Demonstration, which has helped organise rallies in cities around the world.

In Melbourne, the movement has also attracted QAnon conspiracy theorists, libertarians and Trump supporters, many of whom have never attended rallies in the past.

Experts say protests are likely so long as images of people at Bondi Beach continue to be shared.

Experts say protests are likely so long as images of people at Bondi Beach continue to be shared. Credit:Nick Moir

“As long as you have the lockdowns going on and people in some suburbs find they can’t leave the house without being questioned by police, while they are seeing pictures of people lying on the beach at Bondi, they are going to get pissed off, and some will protest,” she said.

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The well-organised and networked global anti-vaccination movement has also been central to the movement, she says.

Some parts of the movement are already advertising another rally to be held in Sydney later this month, and a Worldwide Demonstration site is promoting a global rally slated for the following month.

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