Hundreds of protesters were arrested and police were injured in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday in violent clashes with anti-lockdown protesters.
Police used pepper spray and made more than 200 arrests in the country’s second most populous city, with hundreds of people violating their obligation to stay home to demonstrate.
Melbourne is experiencing its sixth lockdown since the start of the pandemic, and the state of Victoria, where it is located, recorded more than 500 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
Police said six policemen were taken to hospital after being shot and trampled on top of them during clashes with about 700 protesters.
“Ce que nous avons vu aujourd’hui, c’est un groupe qui s’est rassemblé, non pas pour revendiquer plus de libertés, mais pour affronter la police”, a déclaré le commandant de la police de Victoria, Mark Galliott, à Journalism.
The police tried to prevent the demonstrators from entering the city center, blocking roads and stopping public transportation, in order to avoid repeating the violent scenes that characterized the previous gathering last August, in which thousands of people participated.
So the protesters found themselves elsewhere. The footage shows a crowd rushing through a police cordon, as scuffles broke out along the tram line.
In Sydney, a large police force has been deployed in a park to prevent a similar gathering.
New South Wales Police said they have arrested about 20 people in the city and at limited rallies across the state.
Sydney has been confined since the end of June and Melbourne since the end of July.
Authorities are working on a way to ease these restrictions as the number of cases continues to rise.
For most of the pandemic, Australia has had one of the lowest infection rates in the world thanks to its ‘zero COVID-19’ strategy, which consists of strict border closures, contact tracing and massive screening campaigns.
The renewed epidemic due to the delta variant in mid-June in Sydney led to a change in strategy and increased public support for vaccination against COVID-19.
Authorities are now targeting a 70% vaccination rate to be able to ease measures.
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