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Police arrest 47 as anti-lockdown rally fails to attract large crowds

Many police were waiting for protesters at Victoria Park on Saturday.

Many police were waiting for protesters at Victoria Park on Saturday. Credit:James Brickwood

Meanwhile, a man was charged after he allegedly intimidated NSW Police Minister David Elliott in Sydney’s north-west on Friday. In a statement, police said Mr Elliott was walking on Old Northern Road in Baulkham Hills about 3pm on Friday when he was approached by a man he did not know.

“The man questioned the MP, recording the interaction on his mobile phone and allegedly continued to verbally abuse and intimidate him as he followed him to a nearby shopping centre,” a police spokesperson said.

“A 47-year-old man attempted to intervene and was also verbally abused. Officers from The Hills Police Area Command were notified and commenced an investigation.”

In the video, which was shared in anti-lockdown groups on encrypted messaging app Telegram, the man initially films Mr Elliott’s torso while saying “our tyrannical and treasonous government right now are taking away our freedoms unlawfully”.

The protest failed to attract the crowds seen in a coordinated event in Melbourne or at a previous protest in Sydney’s CBD.

The protest failed to attract the crowds seen in a coordinated event in Melbourne or at a previous protest in Sydney’s CBD. Credit:Brook Mitchell

Protesters in the city on Saturday were heard echoing debunked views about immunisation and pseudo-legal arguments against the state government’s public health orders. “I would die before I’d take it,” one attendee was overheard saying of COVID-19 vaccines.

One protester yelled “protect your children from tyranny” and railed against vaccines as she was arrested.

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Another criticised the “police state” and questioned the legality of public health orders and police enforcement. “This is against our very fundamental laws and constitution,” the woman said.

One person being arrested was seen waving a rudimentary legal document, titled “notice of conditional acceptance”, at police. The template has been shared among online activists and purports to demonstrate that NSW Police are liable for acting outside their jurisdiction in enforcing public health orders.

Some protesters attempting to reach the park were seen in high-vis workwear seemingly as part of an attempt to fool police into thinking they were essential workers able to travel.

The event failed to reach the scale of the CBD protest in late July, where many of the thousands of attendees appeared to be more mainstream members of society objecting to strict public health orders, especially in south-west Sydney.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the police operation on Saturday was effective in preventing people travelling into the city.

“There is no doubt that the prevention and disruption strategies that were employed by police today significantly reduced the numbers of people who sought to come in today to protest,” he said.

Mr Elliott said police had done an “exemplary” job in shutting down the protest and warned people against going ahead with any follow-up gatherings.

Mr Elliott praised NSW residents for largely adhering to public health orders and said a “small minority has again chosen to blatantly ignore the very clear, repeated warnings of NSW Police, which is disappointing, frustrating and, frankly, disgraceful”.

Some members of the online groups bemoaned that the protest was a failure and said they were impressed with how effectively NSW Police thwarted the plans.

“Terribly organised … people didn’t show because too many police,” one person said. “Yeah it was a flop and an opportunity wasted. What happened to all the warriors from the last rally? Where are youse?” another responded.

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As tensions subsided at Victoria Park, organisers used social media to direct people to continue protesting at Town Hall if they penetrated the police perimeter around the CBD, or a “plan B” site in Parramatta. No visible protests eventuated at the back-up locations throughout the afternoon.

Ahead of the protest, police issued public safety orders against 16 people described as key agitators, temporarily restricting their movements and stopping them attending the event.

Over 4000 were estimated to have protested in Melbourne’s CBD, where police used capsicum spray and tear gas in a bid to subdue people rushing the lines formed by officers.

Victorian Police said 700 officers were deployed to handle the event, arresting 218 people and issuing 236 fines. Six police were hospitalised.

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