Unmasked anti-lockdown protesters have been arrested by police during violent scuffles in Melbourne.
Officers were punched by one man at the city's Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday before being fitted with a mask and handcuffs.
Victoria Police confirmed 15 people were arrested during the protests on Saturday, 14 for breaching Chief Health Officer directions, one for assaulting police.
More than 150 infringement notices were issued for breaching health directives, while police said approximately 200 people gathered at the shrine before moving to Albert Park Lake.
As large numbers of police clashed with protesters, the mood was described as tense at the Shrine. of Remembrance.
Some of the demonstrators at the shrine were carrying placards expressing anti-government sentiments and at one stage protesters could be heard singing the Australian national anthem.
Reporters on the ground said the group of protestors then marched on to Albert Park.
Police were on standby for a number of protest rallies across Victoria after plans were aired to challenge the state's strict lockdown rules which include an 8pm to 5am curfew, as well as limited travel and reasons for leaving home.
Ahead of the planned 11am protest, a woman was filmed being arrested by 7News reporter Paul Dowsley, who was on the ground.
“Woman arrested at Shrine ahead of possible lockdown protest,” Mr Dowsley tweeted this morning.
“They’ve just told her she will be taken to Melbourne West police station until they confirm her identity.”
Four men were previously arrested and charged with incitement relating to the rally. Those arrests followed the well-publicised arrest of a pregnant Ballarat woman over allegations of a separate rally planned there for Saturday.
Earlier, Mr Dowsley’s twitter showed a heavy police presence at the Shrine of Remembrance, with officers stopping motorists and cyclists and checking their identities.
One man allegedly punched police officers before being fitted with a mask and handcuffs.
After gathering at the shrine, protestors then moved to Albert Park, where according to Herald Sun reporter Aneeka Simonis, further arrests were made.
“Protesters aren’t backing down,” she tweeted, along with a video of police officers talking to a man in a Guy Fawkes mask and a heavy police presence surrounding the crowd.
— Aneeka Simonis (@AneekaSimonis) September 5, 2020
On Saturday afternoon Victorian Police released a statement, saying it was “disappointing” protestors gathered in Melbourne’s CBD, despite warnings.
“Police responded to protest activity across the CBD today, where approximately 200 people attended the Shrine of Remembrance and then moved on to Albert Park Lake,” the statement said.
Of the 15 arrests, police said 14 were for breaching Chief Health Officer directions, one was for assaulting police, all those arrested are in custody, “assisting police with enquiries”.
“As a result of the protest, a police officer received lacerations to the head after being assaulted by an individual who was in attendance,” the statement continued.
“Our investigations into this protest will continue, and we expect to issue further fines once the identity of individuals has been confirmed.”
Police warning to ‘tinfoil hat-wearing brigade’
Ahead of the planned Saturday protest, police warned against people congregating and breaching health directives.
"The tinfoil hat-wearing brigade are alive and well in our community," Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said.
“They're taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their own ridiculous notions about so-called 'sovereign citizens', about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids,” he said.
On Saturday, Victoria recorded 76 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths, while 298 people remain in hospital.
“Obviously, at 76 new cases, that is still a really significant challenge for us,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters this morning.
“And to open up with those numbers would, of course, see the total number of coronavirus infections explode.”
Mr Andrews also had a few pointed words for protestors, calling organisers and participants “selfish”.
"It is not smart, it is not safe, it is not lawful, in fact it is absolutely selfish to be out there protesting," he said.
"The only fight we should be engaged in is against this virus."
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