Thousands of people gathered in Canberra on Saturday to protest Covid-19 vaccination mandates, shutting down streets and putting the ACT's police on high alert.
Demonstrators flooded Exhibition Park, causing disruption by camping without authorisation and tearing down fences and barricades.
Footage of the huge crowd marching through the city has gone viral on social media, sparing fears of a superspreader event amid concerns about the lack of people wearing masks.
"Selfish idiots," one person wrote on Twitter, while another said: "Looks like it will turn into a superspreader event — no masks."
The Convoy to Canberra protesters — who have been gathering at the nation’s capital for the past two weeks — appear to be a mix of anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and people from the sovereign citizen movement.
— Silent Majority (@PatrioticCougar) February 12, 2022
Lifeline Canberra were due to hold a mental health fundraiser at the showground on Saturday but were forced to cancel the event over safety concerns.
Some protestors also breached the fence on the lawns of Parliament House.
Three people were reportedly arrested following the protests.
Lifeline Canberra has made the decision to close the doors to the bookfair today, the situation at EPIC has changed overnight and Lifeline puts its patrons safety first and foremost.
We will keep you posted on our opening hours for tomorrow later this evening once we know more. pic.twitter.com/lVBBURWkxH
— Lifeline Canberra (@Lifeline_ACT) February 11, 2022
Scott Morrison says he 'understands' protestor's concerns
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the protesters are "speaking up for the things they feel strongly about" and asked them to follow police directions.
"Australia is a free country and they have a right to protest. I would ask them to do that in a peaceful and respectful way," he told reporters on Saturday.
He said the federal government had only ever supported mandates for aged care and disability workers, as well as health workers in high-risk situations.
"All other mandates that relate to vaccines have been imposed unilaterally by state governments. They have not been put in place by the commonwealth government ... so I understand their concerns about these issues," he said.
One Nation senator Pauline Hanson visited the rally and spoke to some of the protesters in the crowd.
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