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Hundreds of police swarm St Kilda foreshore to contain protesters

Protesters using a voice chat app after the rally were heard blaming a “lack of direction” and leadership.

“People are scared of being arrested, so once lockdown is over, we’ll have heaps,” said one anti-lockdown advocate, while another said, “it’s not just about the number of people on the ground, it’s about exposure around the world.”

Police arrest a protester in St Kilda on Saturday.

Police arrest a protester in St Kilda on Saturday.Credit:Justin McManus

Protesters were heard singing The Living End’s Prisoner of Society and Get Up Stand Up by Bob Marley as they moved along the waterfront. Some handed out footballs stencilled with the phrase ‘give Dan the boot’.

Protesters interrupted traffic as they marched down Marine Parade, to the frustration of passing motorists, some of whom flipped their middle finger to the crowd.

Earlier, organisers summoned participants in the so-called “Millions March for Freedom” to meet at Melbourne’s Luna Park at noon. They then revised plans via social media due to the heavy police presence.

Rory Thomas, 43, was at the St Kilda skate park with his eight-year-old son, and a friend of his son’s, when protesters marched into the park followed by police.

Rory Thomas at the skate park in St Kilda on Saturday.

Rory Thomas at the skate park in St Kilda on Saturday. Credit:Penny Stephens

Mr Thomas is a construction labourer who, along with most of his industry, is on two weeks’ forced leave during the sector shutdown.

He said he had not been ready to get vaccinated, and would probably take time off when the sector reopens to consider whether to get vaccinated.

He and the two boys watched the protests and arrests unfold, but when one man was violently tackled to the ground in nearby bushes one of the boys wanted to leave.

“In front of all the kids here,” he said. “It’s excessive policing, for a small amount of people who just wanted to get their point across.”

In addition to the strong presence in St Kilda on Saturday, police were also stationed at key points around Melbourne’s CBD.

Pedestrians in the city were being stopped and asked about their movements at Flinders Street Station, while the mounted branch was seen patrolling city streets ahead of demonstrations potentially moving toward the CBD.

The protesters, who have vowed to return “every day”, have already begun discussing Sunday’s demonstration in their private channels.

Saturday’s St Kilda rally follows a series of violent clashes between protesters and police this week.

Demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill on the West Gate Bridge on Tuesday and occupied the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday. Around 200 people were arrested on Friday, when protesters travelled from the CBD to the inner-north.

The protests have been in part spurred on by the public health direction that construction workers must be vaccinated before returning to work.

Police arrest a demonstrator on Saturday.

Police arrest a demonstrator on Saturday.Credit:Justin McManus

Health authorities confirmed on Friday that a protester who attended one of the protests this week has since tested positive for COVID-19 and is in a Melbourne hospital being treated for the virus.

Health Minister Martin Foley said at press conference on Saturday he hoped the protesters were losing steam for their cause, noting that a number Victoria Police members now have to isolate as a result of being close contacts of a positive case at Wednesday’s protest.

Protesters march along Marine Parade in St Kilda.

Protesters march along Marine Parade in St Kilda.Credit:Justin McManus

“What we’ve seen over the past week with the events in Richmond and Hawthorn last weekend and the completely regrettable activities over the course of this week is unrepresentative, ill-advised activity that will only achieve the direct opposite of what it says it is designed to do,” he said.

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