A bizarre anti-lockdown flash mob at Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne’s south-east quickly fizzled within minutes on Sunday.
About 50 demonstrators formed a makeshift choir outside Coles supermarket and sang You’re The Voice by John Farnham at 1pm.
But before they had a chance to belt out an encore, the group quickly dispersed over fear of being caught by police.
Five police Public Order Response vans arrived on the scene at 1.15pm, but by then most of the demonstrators had split up.
— Chris Vedelago Journalist (@ChrisVedelago) September 20, 2020
What I'm assuming was a protest just took place in Chadstone. pic.twitter.com/IiuPBqqavW
— βonnie (@BetaBarBonnie) September 20, 2020
Victoria Police arrested two people and issued six fines to singers.
“It is only a very small number of people that still choose to put the rest of the community at risk through their selfish behaviour,” a police spokeswoman said.
“We will continue to take the same swift and firm action against those who choose to blatantly ignore the CHO directions.”
Victoria Police said it would continue investigating the people who attended the protest.
Because disturbing the stall holders at Queen Vic wasn’t enough last weekend: pic.twitter.com/cHq7TVl6aw
— Lana Murphy (@LanaMurphy) September 20, 2020
They’ve got the voice, but we don’t understand it
Speaking to the Herald Sun after the rally, one demonstrator accused the Victorian government of “protecting paedophiles and taking our rights away”.
His words echoed that of QAnon, a far-right group pushing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and paedophile rings.
“Innocent people want to protest for freedom against our government – Black Lives Matter is OK, but it’s not OK when you want to speak up against the government,” the woman said.
“It’s disgusting. Our freedom of speech and human rights have been violated, so we’re going to stand up for Victoria.”
Another anti-lockdown supporter told the Herald Sun he wanted to “expose the lies that are going on and the trans-human agenda that’s coming next”.
— Aneeka Simonis (@AneekaSimonis) September 20, 2020
On Saturday, Victoria Police arrested 16 people and issued 21 fines to anti-lockdown protesters in the Elsternwick area.
— precursor (@occupy_now) September 19, 2020
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been accused of hypocrisy for allowing anti-lockdown protesters to be fined, but not any of the people in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs who spread COVID-19 after illegally visiting other family members’ homes.
The group behind the outbreak, which has grown to 40 virus infections, is largely from the Afghan community in Casey. Two of those infected by the virus are in hospital.
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien seized the opportunity to slam Labor for “double standards” that were “as toxic as this virus”.
“It’s a disgrace that Labor has locked up innocent Victorians under a curfew while those who break the law and spread the virus get off scot free,” he said.
“This is the same Andrews hypocrisy that saw teenagers fined for learning to drive while 10,000 Black Lives Matter protesters were ignored.”
However, on Sunday Mr Andrews defended his decision not to fine the families in Casey for breaching lockdown because it might stop them from being “full and frank” in crucial contact-tracing interviews.
“If people are going to get fined for telling the truth … well then, I think we know what happens,” he said.
“People won’t tell the truth, and we won’t know where they’ve been, who they’ve infected, and we won’t be able to pull up an outbreak at 40 [cases]. It’ll be hundreds.”
He said he was “frustrated that people were doing the wrong thing”, but said the “truth was worth everything”.