Australia’s three biggest cities saw anti-lockdown protests on Saturday. An estimated 4,000 protesters flooded the Melbourne CBD while police succeeded in stopping a Sydney protest.
On Sunday, a third protest on the New South Wales / Queensland border took police by surprise. Approximately 1000 people in Tweed Heads protested against the Queensland border closure.
On Saturday, Victoria Police deployed pepper spray and fired rubber bullets into crowds gathering at the “Freedom Rally.”
Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria remain locked down until at least Thursday, September 2. Police arrested 218 people and issued 236 fines at the Melbourne protest on Saturday.
“My officers will do everything they can to hold those people to account,” said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.
In Sydney, several hundred protesters gathering around Broadway shopping centre and Victoria Park were heavily outnumbered by 1,500 police. Pre-empting protesters, NSW Police closed several railway stations and banned rideshare operators and taxis from bringing passengers into the area.
The entire state of NSW is in lockdown, and conditions in Sydney are not expected to ease until the end of September. Police arrested 47 people and fined 260 more on Saturday for flouting lockdown orders and attending the protest.
“We have seen this sort of behaviour result in further lockdowns; the very thing these individuals are protesting against,” said NSW Police Minister David Elliott.
By Monday, questions were being asked why NSW Police managed to successfully quell the protest in Sydney while Victoria Police failed to do the same in Melbourne.
However, while NSW Police were ready for Saturday’s protest, a protest further north on Sunday appeared to take them by surprise.
Queensland has shut the normally busy border crossing at the southern end of the Gold Coast. But with many residents crossing the border regularly for work, education, medical, and personal reasons, the closure has caused significant disruptions.
Protestors gathered on the NSW side of the border on Sunday, threatening to cross into Queensland despite a significant NSW and Queensland Police presence. NSW Police arrested eight people and issued 54 fines.
Local police took unauthorized protest activity extremely seriously said Tweed/Byron Police District Commander Superintendent David Roptell.
“Further inquiries will be made to identify those who were in attendance at today’s protest and appropriate action will be taken,” he said.
Despite being not locked down, Brisbane was also the scene of a peaceful protest on Saturday. An estimated 5,000 people gathered in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens to protest lockdowns and border closures.
On Sunday, the Queensland Government doubled down on its border closure policy.
“The border is our riskiest place right now,” said Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles. “By having a protest there, we make the jobs of our police harder. They put their own safety at risk as well as the safety of the community and I’m frankly pretty disgusted.”
David Elliott calls the protesters selfish, saying they pose a significant risk to the community. Despite allegations of rough handling of crowds, many who were peacefully protesting, Ministers and Commissioners are standing behind their frontline forces.