In highly unusual scenes, protesters in Melbourne demanding an end to coronavirus lockdown have called for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to be arrested.
It’s estimated that about 100 people attended a protest outside of Victoria’s Parliament House on Sunday to express opposition to lockdown measures in the state.
Some held signs which read, “fight for your freedom and rights”. Others protested vaccinations and 5G networks.
Protesters who were ostensibly frustrated with Victoria’s strict lockdown laws amid the pandemic, soon turned their attention to Mr Gates, chanting for his arrest.
The bizarre scenes were described as “disappointing” by health authorities.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said it was “incredibly disappointing that people would be protesting or seeking to suggest we don't have a pandemic.
“Those people know that this pandemic is not fake news.”
A lot of ‘silly misinformation out there’
When asked about the protesters “believing what they read on the internet” and his thoughts on the protest, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters “there is unfortunately a lot of very silly misinformation out there”.
“Similarly, I understand people have the right to protest, but they should not be breaching those social distancing rules and if they are, they should be held to account.”
Victoria Police said 10 people were arrested at the protest Sunday.
Authorities added that if the protest was going to go ahead it needed to happen under orders laid out for social distancing.
“The majority of those arrested were for failing to comply with the Chief Health Officer’s directions,” police said.
“Three of the offenders will also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and another offender will be charged with discharging a missile after allegedly throwing a bottle at police.
“All offenders were released pending summons.”
Police said one officer was hurt suffering a suspected rib injury during clashes with crowds.
“When attending the protest today, the priority for police was to quickly arrest those individuals who were acting unlawfully and inciting others,” police said.
“Once police made arrests, the crowd started to disperse.
“Police are continuing to investigate the events of today in order to identify other people who were in attendance. Once individuals are identified, we will be issuing them with fines and will consider any other enforcement options.”
Australian protesters copying US conspiracy theories
While it’s highly unusual to call for Mr Gates to be arrested during a viral pandemic which has killed nearly 280,000 people worldwide, those in Melbourne appear to be taking the lead of well known conspiracy theorists in the United States.
Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist, had protesters chanting “arrest Bill Gates” in Austin in the US state of Texas last month.
Jones, who hosts conspiracy talk show InfoWars, has been banned from using Facebook and Instagram. The InfoWars app was also removed from Google due to claims it was circulating misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
The Microsoft co-founder pour billions of dollars into fighting disease around the world and has long warned against the dangers of global pandemics.
It’s his work in the field that has seen him singled out by those who want to rail against measures brought into combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a 2015 Ted Talk, Mr Gates said missiles, weapons and war weren’t the greatest threat to humanity.
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” Mr Gates said.
“Not missiles, but microbes.”
He added in his speech that health bodies, governments and authorities had invested “very little” in being able to fight a breakout.
“We’re not ready for the next epidemic,” he said. “We should be concerned.”
Protest fuelled by ‘complete nonsense’
Some might have seen this as a sign Mr Gates is directly responsible for COVID-19. Another completely unfounded conspiracy theory online propagates that Mr Gates wants to inject everyone with a tracking device.
One man at the Melbourne protest on Sunday told people not to allow microchips to be placed in them after his father had warned him as a child.
“My dad said the same thing,” an onlooker said as the man gave his speech while looking at his smartphone.
There’s also another unfounded theory circulating that 5G, a mobile communication network using radio signals, is causing coronavirus.
Professor Murphy said Sunday there’s “absolutely no evidence” 5G has anything to do with coronavirus.
“I have unfortunately received a lot of communication from these conspiracy theorists myself,” he said.
“It is complete nonsense. 5G has got nothing at all to do with coronavirus.”
The source of coronavirus is known to have come form the animal kingdom and believed to have spread to humans at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
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