Victoria police have arrested 14 people at illegal anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne, with 51 fines issued for breaching stay-at-home orders.
About 100 people attended the protests at various locations in the city, with a large police presence outnumbering those taking part in the so-called “freedom walk” at the popular running track the Tan and Fitzroy Gardens.
Early on Saturday, police officers circled the Tan and the Shrine of Remembrance. Walkers on the shores of the city’s Yarra River stopped and displayed signs, including one saying “I am just exercising my human rights”.
One woman who was restrained on the ground by police at the Observatory Gate said: “They’ve arrested me because I won’t say my name. I’ve been in Melbourne all my life, I just want to go for a walk.”
A man wearing a mask saying “Sack Dan Andrews” was arrested after he refused to provide ID to police.
One woman’s signs, including one saying “Open Our Churches”, were taken by police officers.
Promotion of the main Melbourne event was taken down earlier in the week by Facebook. More than 1,300 people had indicated they were either interested in attending or planning to attend the protests.
The event’s organisers had asked citizens to “come together, get healthy and talk about getting our freedoms back”.
During his coronavirus update on Saturday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, described the protesters as “selfish, unlawful and wrong”.
“It’s not smart, it’s not right … it’s not the time for protest,” he said. “No one has the right to make choices like that, that potentially puts at risk everything we are working towards.”
Separate protests have also been proposed for Sunday.
On Friday, the state’s assistant commissioner of police, Luke Cornelius, said of the protests, “I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit”.
“I’m sick of it,” he said.
On Thursday, police arrested Tony Pecora, 43, who is allegedly a key organiser of anti-lockdown agitation.
When interviewed, Pecora allegedly told officers he believed coronavirus case numbers had been highly exaggerated, and that Covid-19 was genetically engineered by world banks to kill weak people.
He allegedly quoted Midnight Oil, telling police if someone contracted coronavirus at one of his events “it would be better to die on your feet than live on your knees”.
He faced court on Friday accused of inciting others to protest and was given bail. Under his bail conditions he cannot use social media or contact co-organisers.
Last weekend, a protest held at the Shrine of Remembrance resulted in 17 arrests and more than 160 fines.
Meanwhile, in Western Australia, a woman who recently returned to Perth from NSW has been fitted with an electronic ankle tracking device after breaching Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.
The 33-year-old is the first person to be electronically monitored for a quarantine breach under measures recently introduced by the WA government.
She had been allowed to enter WA on 1 September and was ordered to self-isolate alone at her home for 14 days. However, when police conducted a check on Thursday, they found two men visiting.
The woman was issued with a $1,000 fine and moved to a Perth quarantine hotel. But after consideration of the circumstances of the woman’s breach, the state emergency coordinator determined it was necessary to monitor her location during the quarantine period, police said in a statement on Saturday.
They said the monitoring device would remain in place until the end of the woman’s quarantine period.
In NSW’s south, police said they had charged two men at an Albury border checkpoint, with one of the pair allegedly travelling on a false permit. A check of the vehicle allegedly found drugs and both the men were charged with possession and will face court.