Several Arrested After Crowds Defy Warnings To Protest Coronavirus Lockdown
Police have arrested 10 people after hundreds gathered at an anti-lockdown protest at Melbourne's Parliament House on Sunday.
Protesters were filmed chanting criticism of Victoria's lockdown measures and holding signs calling for people to 'fight for your freedom'.
Other signs held by protesters framed coronavirus as a conspiracy theory and claimed '5g kills'.
Videos posted on social media showed people yelling "arrest Bill Gates", with further footage showing violent clashes between police and some of the protesters.
Victoria Police confirmed officers arrested 10 people at the protest on Spring Street, including two who were believed be organisers of the event, before the crowd dispersed.
"The majority of those arrested were for failing to comply with the Chief Health Officer’s directions," police said in a statement.
"Three of the offenders will also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and another offender will be charged with discharging a missile after allegedly throwing a bottle at police."
Police said pepper spray was used during the arrest of one individual on Sunday.
One officer has been taken to hospital with a suspected rib injury, according to police.
"When attending the protest today, the priority for police was to quickly arrest those individuals who were acting unlawfully and inciting others to breach the Chief Health Officer’s directions," a statement from police said.
"Police are continuing to investigate the events of today in order to identify other people who were in attendance. Once individuals are identified, we will be issuing them with fines and will consider any other enforcement options."
Earlier, Victoria Police told 10 daily those who attended would face hefty fines for breaching the state's ban on mass gatherings.
"While Victoria Police respects the public's right to protest, these are extraordinary times and the health and safety of every Victorian needs to be our number one priority at this time," a police spokesperson said.
"We have made it very clear that if a planned protest was to proceed, it would be in direct contravention of the Chief Health Officer’s current directives," they added.
"Police will have a highly visible presence at each event and if people do attend, we will have no hesitation in moving them on and issuing individual penalty notice of $1,652 each where appropriate."
Images from the scene on Sunday showed police -- some of whom were wearing protective face masks -- handcuffing several protesters and leading others into a van.
In a press conference on Sunday, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the protests were "incredibly disappointing".
“Those individuals who are protesting today are at breach of the stay at home directive,” she said.
She added that the protest's anti-vaccination agenda was particularly concerning in the midst of the global pandemic.
“I know that the whole of Australia, the whole world, in fact, is waiting with great anticipation (for) a potential vaccine being developed for coronavirus.”
When asked about the protests on Sunday, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said "people should not be breaching those social distancing rules and if they are, they should be held to account."
He also addressed conspiracy theories around 5G and the coronavirus, dubbing them "complete nonsense".
"There is, unfortunately, a lot of very silly misinformation out there," Murphy said.
"There is absolutely no evidence about 5G doing anything in the coronavirus space. I have unfortunately received a lot of communication from these conspiracy theorists myself."
"It is complete nonsense. 5G has got nothing at all to do with coronavirus."
Victoria Police said all 10 people arrested during the protest have been released pending summons.