Just a handful of people turned up to a ‘freedom rally’ to protest the coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne.
Up to 400 people were expected to kick off the illegal protest on the steps of Parliament on Sunday amid the city’s strict stage 4 lockdown.
But most of the people who vowed to protest never showed up. Early indications suggest no more than 30 people arrived, and of those, seven were arrested.
Six people were arrested because they refused to provide their personal details to police, but were later released with a $1,652 fine after they complied.
The other person who was arrested allegedly helped to organise the rally, and will likely be charged with further offences relating to the protest at a later date.
‘This man is not one of the two organisers who were arrested during the week,’ a Victoria Police spokeswoman told Herald Sun.
Officers also handed out 27 fines for people breaching health directives implemented by the Chief Health Officer.
Of those, 24 were for people who left home for a non-essential reason amid the city-wide Stage Four lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19.
One person received a $200 fine for refusing to wear a face mask.
Footage shows the masked protester yelling for residents to stand together against mandatory vaccinations.
‘We have to stand together,’ he yells. ‘No mandatory vaccinations.’
Organisers of the ‘Freedom Day Celebration’ protest reportedly believe that coronavirus is a ‘biochemical weapon’ and are against mandatory masks, vaccinations and business shutdowns.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp did not mince her words on the Today Show earlier today as she urged protesters to respect social distancing laws and not attend the rally.
‘Don’t do it. We are in the middle of stage four restrictions. We need to do the right thing and listen to our safety and health experts for the safety of everybody.’
Ms Capp went on to condemn the residents who breached stay-at-home orders while the majority followed the restrictions.
‘I understand the frustration of people who see this happening, but we have to stay very resolved for this sustained effort of adhering to the restrictions of stage four lockdown.’
Victoria Police have been quick to condemn the ‘selfish’ behaviour of protesters threatening any attendees with $1,652 fines.
More than 100 initially said they would attend the rally with 400 in total expressing interest.
Two men, both aged 41, were arrested during the week in relation to the so-called ‘freedom rally’.
The arrests of the men came after police searched two homes in Mooroolbark and Chirnside Park on Thursday and seized mobile phones and a computer.
A 41-year-old male from Mooroolbark was charged with incitement. He was bailed and is due to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in January next year.
A 41-year-old male from Chirnside Park was also arrested but was released with intent to summons. He is expected to be charged with the same offences.
Rally organisers have even advised protesters to read a script which they believe will stop police arresting them.
It reads: ‘I have the right to demonstrate’ and ‘if you arrest me that will give me the right to place you in the witness box at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court’.
Controversial anti-masker Eve Black used the same speech on cops at a checkpoint last month, although she was later arrested and fined.
In a statement on Thursday, Victoria Police said it was aware some ‘selfish’ people may be planning to protest in the city’s CBD on Sunday.
‘This selfish behaviour will absolutely not be tolerated,’ police warned in a statement ahead of the rally.
‘Be assured Victoria Police will be responding and will take appropriate action.
‘We will have no hesitation in issuing $1,652 fines or making arrests on the day, if necessary.
‘Police are also making enquiries into the organisers of this event and we will be holding them to account.’
Under current restrictions, Melburnians can only leave their homes for work, care-giving, medical reasons or on compassionate grounds.
There is also a curfew enforced from 8pm to 5am.
The planned protest comes in the wake of another rally held outside Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance last Friday.
A group of 30 people gathered at dawn to observe a minute’s silence for soldiers in Melbourne. Some of whom were not wearing masks.
Victoria Police were quick to break up the gathering and asked people to move on before they were penalised.
Some of the protesters flouting COVID-19 restrictions were taken away in handcuffs and fined.