Anti-coronavirus vaccine mandate protests have drawn large crowds across Australia, with tens of thousands marching through city streets.
Saturday’s rallies, purportedly part of a global “freedom” movement, have been attended widely in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
In Melbourne, a crowd began to mass outside Victoria’s Parliament before midday and walked to Flagstaff Gardens.
The demonstrators loosely comprise groups who oppose COVID-19 vaccines, mandates and the state’s proposed pandemic laws, which stalled in the upper house this week.
Watched by police, they chanted “kill the bill” and yelled “sack Dan Andrews” while carrying placards featuring a range of anti-government and anti-vaccine mandate slogans.
The crowd grew to several thousand at the gardens, where a band played John Farnham’s You’re the Voice.
At least one protester was detained before being led away by police.
A counter demonstration at the nearby Eight Hour Day Monument attracted a much smaller crowd of left-wing activists who marched through the city escorted by police to avoid clashes with the other protesters.
In Sydney, police say about 10,000 protesters marched through the city centre to voice their concerns, while smaller, unauthorised protests also took place at Newtown and Newcastle.
No arrests were made and no infringement notices were issued.
“Overall, the protests were conducted peacefully with minimal disruption to the community, and I’m pleased to see that the vast majority of people complied with police directions,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell said.
United Australia Party leader and federal MP Craig Kelly addressed the crowd at Martin Place after attending a Melbourne protest last weekend.
“We will hold every politician and every bureaucrat responsible for forcing injections upon the Australia population,” he said, drawing chants of “sack them all”.
The party’s founder and former MP Clive Palmer spoke at a sister rally in Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens, telling the crowd not to vote for major parties at the next election.
He criticised a number of politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison who he says “abandoned Australia”.
Abuse and threats
When the Brisbane crowd was asked by a protester giving a speech what they thought of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, someone yelled: “Hang the b***h”.
It comes after Queensland MP Brittany Lauga contacted police after she and other members of state parliament received an email with “threats of terrorism, extremism and violence”.
“I understand local doctors have been sent death threats and other threatening letters,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I unequivocally condemn these threats of violence, terrorism and extremism. This is not peaceful protest.”
On Friday, key Victorian crossbench MP Andy Meddick revealed his daughter Kielan had allegedly been attacked on a Fitzroy street the previous evening and had suffered a head injury after being confronted by an unknown man over the spray painting of an anti-vax poster.
The incident drew condemnation from Mr Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.