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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Calls for ‘freedom’: The anti-lockdown protests across Australia and cop action to stop ‘superspreader’ rallies

Anti-lockdown protests planned in Sydney on Saturday failed to materialise after meticulous planning by the cops prevented lockdown-violating mass gatherings seen last weekend from being repeated.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 31, 2021 7:01:53 pm
Protesters march through Sydney streets holding "Freedom" posters. (AP Photo)

Sydney, along with other Australian cities, was rocked by protests last week, with thousands of unmasked people on the streets agitating against the lockdown restrictions imposed by the government after a sudden rise in Covid-19 cases.

On Saturday, authorities said that 210 new cases due to the Delta variant have been detected in New South Wales (NSW).

What happened in Sydney last week?

Defying a statewide stay-at-home order, 3,500 protesters, most of whom were without masks, clashed with police in downtown Sydney last week, the Reuters reported. The protesters were unhappy with month-long lockdown restrictions. The state police minister said this could potentially be a superspreader event.

Unmasked protestors had marched from Victoria Park to Town Hall with placards calling for “freedom”.

The protests took place amidst heavy police presence, with mounted police and riot officers as the authorities termed it as an unauthorized protest activity.

Police have arrested more than 80 protestors, given out more than 250 Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) and more than 300 Infringement notices.

The protests were a result of new restrictions imposed by the government after the Covid cases reached a record high last week.

With Greater Sydney locked down for the past four weeks, residents only able to leave home with a reasonable excuse, AP reported.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was quoted as saying by AP, “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 OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”

People in Melbourne, Adelaide and other Australian cities had also come on the streets to protest against the restrictions.

New NSW COVID-19 restrictions

On July 28, Hazzard released a Covid-19 restrictions update stating that the stay-at-home orders will remain in place until August 28 across Greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

The statement said that the restrictions would give NSW members time to increase the uptake of the vaccines in most affected areas and across the state.

Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian said, according to the statement, “higher vaccination rates and following the health orders are the only way to guarantee the further easing of restrictions.”

While the stay-at-home lockdown continues for all, the relaxations state:

  • The residents of the above-mentioned areas would have to limit shopping to “Local Government Area (LGA) or, if outside their LGA, within 10km from home, unless the item is not available locally”.
  • Only authorised workers are allowed to move outside their LGAs.
  • The construction in non-occupied regions is set to open outside LGAs with one person per 4sqm rule and other COVID protocols in place.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said that the lockdown in Greater Sydney will help protect regional NSW and prevent the virus from reaching regional communities.

Hazzard said that “we people to redouble their efforts as we continue to battle the Delta variant in the coming weeks”.

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Protestors will regroup in August

Anti-lockdown protests planned in Sydney on Saturday failed to materialise after meticulous planning by the cops prevented lockdown-violating mass gatherings seen last weekend from being repeated, the Guardian reported.

Mounted cops (1000 along with 300 defence personnel) and helicopters used in an operation by deputy police commissioner Michael Willing prevented the protesters from gathering. Police had also created exclusion zones and planned to impose harsh fines.

With a few protestors from last week having tested positive, organisers of Saturday’s protest urged people to regroup in August.

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