Thousands march in lockdown protests across major cities.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday in protest against public health measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Several people were arrested in Sydney after gathering in defiance of the city's stay-at-home orders, which have been in place for the past four weeks.
The large group marched from the inner west suburb of Camperdown to the CBD where there are reports some protesters hurled bottles and other objects at mounted police.
Protesters were heard chanting "freedom" and were carrying signs urging people to "drop your mask and raise your voice" and reading "Emergency SOS. Free Australia".
The Sydney anti-lockdown protest is a superspreader event in the making. If the sheer number of people wasn't enough, everyone is also screaming at the top of their lungs (without masks) and potentially spreading droplets all over the damn place pic.twitter.com/WI2R5Ql4kE— Zac Crellin (@zacrellin) July 24, 2021
NSW Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.
"The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community," a police statement said.
Under current restrictions, residents of Greater Sydney are only permitted to gather outdoors in groups of two.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard condemned the planned protest as "really silly" on Saturday morning.
"We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people's rights to protest... but at the present time we've got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that's okay to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration," he said.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, crowds of people are attending a large and unauthorised anti-lockdown protest. pic.twitter.com/asW5K1tuIE— Josh Bavas (@JoshBavas) July 24, 2021