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Australia Angry protesters march against lockdowns

07:32  24 july  2021
07:32  24 july  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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Protesters are massing in capital cities around Australia to object to lockdowns prompted by COVID-19.

a group of people riding horses on a city street: Unmasked and determined to be heard, protesters have clashed with police in Sydney. © Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS Unmasked and determined to be heard, protesters have clashed with police in Sydney.

Thousands of angry, unmasked people marched from inner Sydney's Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district on Saturday.

They broke through a police barrier to continue down George St but were stopped at King St.

There is a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers.

NSW Police described it as a "high-visibility policing operation" in response to "unauthorised protest activity".

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Protesters threw plastic bottles and plants taken from the street at officers. Police confirmed "a number" of arrests had been made.

Signs carried by the protesters call for "freedom" and "the truth".

NSW Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

"The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community," a police statement said.

St James and Museum stations have been closed. Police are dispersing people through George St, encouraging them to get trains at Town Hall, Wynyard or Circular Quay.

The protest comes as COVID-19 case numbers in NSW reached another record high since the first wave in 2020.

Some 163 new local cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, up from 136 the day before.

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

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard condemned the planned protest as "really silly" on Saturday morning.

"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."

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said it was not the time for a protest.

He said police wanted to work with the organisers to make sure people were complying with public health orders and that it did not turn into a "disastrous" mass spreading event.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, thousands of protesters of all ages have turned out in the CBD chanting "freedom".

An AAP photographer on scene described the rally as initially "eerie" with the crowd maskless and verbally aggressive, but said the atmosphere later mellowed.

Some protesters lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria's Parliament House.

They held banners, including one that read: "This is not about a virus it's about total government control of the people."

A car rally is also planned for locked-down Adelaide, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.

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