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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blasted those who turned out in Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday to protest lockdowns, describing their actions as "self defeating".
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Sunday afternoon, the PM took a moment to condemn the thousands of people who flooded the Sydney CBD and clashed with police in ugly scenes amid the state's worsening Covid outbreak.
"Of course it was selfish. It was also self-defeating. It achieves no purpose," he said.
"It won't end the lockdown sooner. It will only risk the lockdowns running for longer."
Mr Morrison praised the more than 100,000 people who got tested for Covid-19 in NSW on Saturday – a new record for the state.
"They're the ones who are bringing an end to the lockdown sooner," he said.
"Not those who are putting themselves at risk, those around them at risk, particularly the police at risk. That was a very selfish act and it offended many fellow Sydneysiders."
Mr Morrison, who last month praised the premier's reluctance to use lockdown measures, said there was now no other alternative but to stay in lockdown until it works, calling protesters "reckless".
Despite blasting those in attendance yesterday, the prime minister would not criticise former members of his government who supported the protests on social media and encouraged anti-lockdown demonstrations.
Former Liberal member in NSW, Craig Kelly, and Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen both promoted and encouraged the protests on various social media platforms.
Both men have repeatedly spread misinformation and baseless conspiracies online while being sitting members of the Coalition government.
George Christensen and Craig Kelly getting behind the anti-lockdown protests yesterday pic.twitter.com/0ZQNnTpwEs
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) July 25, 2021
Scott Morrison big noted himself when COVID conspiracist Craig Kelly left the Liberal Party. But other Govt MPs continue to encourage defiance of public safety measures. Where is the PM on this? pic.twitter.com/EYizcEx4u9
— Senator Murray Watt (@MurrayWatt) July 25, 2021
Mr Morison was evasive and avoided criticism of his colleagues, citing "free speech".
"I don't support any suggestion that people should gather like they did in Sydney yesterday, whatsoever,” he said.
More charges laid over 'violent, filthy' protest
More than 510 infringement notices were issued in the past 24 hours in NSW, almost all of which were to attendees of the Sydney protest, NSW deputy police commissioner Gary Worboys said on Sunday.
“[The] behaviour yesterday in and around Sydney could only be described as violent, filthy behaviour, risky behaviour, that police will continue to investigate," he said.
NSW Police also denied they were caught on the hop by the protest, saying officers had been preparing for the event for a fortnight.
A number of police officers were injured as they were attacked by protesters, who threw plastic bottles and pot plants seized from the roadside.
Despite a heavy presence of mounted and riot officers, protesters broke through a police barrier to continue down George St but were stopped at King Street.
"We made a very clear stance yesterday that violence won't be tolerated," Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon told reporters.
"We had an extensive planning session in place ... what took us by surprise and disappoints me greatly is the level of violence people were prepared to use. That was unprecedented."
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