A “Freedom Day” rally in the Australian city of Melbourne on Sunday that drew anti-mask protesters onto the streets of the Victorian state capital ended with seven arrests and dozens more fines issued to participants.
Victoria State Police confirmed the arrests in a statement, saying 27 fines had been issued for breaches of Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s public order for people to stay home as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Some of the protesters arrested were vocal in front of cameras as they were hauled away, with some describing the move by police as “Nazi Australia”:
Six other people refused to tell police their details after being detained and were later released but each fined $1652.
In total, 24 of the fines were given to people for leaving their homes while in Melbourne’s stage four restrictions lockdown zone for a non-essential reason, NINE News reports.
One arrest was made after an anti-vaccination protester joined the street march:
— Cassie Zervos (@cassiezervos) August 8, 2020
Earlier Australian police arrested two men accused of planning an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, an unusual move to stop an event that authorities said would put “lives at risk”.
Police said Friday that the two men in their 40s had been detained after mobile phones and a computer were seized and both would be formally charged with inciting a criminal offence, AFP reports.
The state of Victoria — which includes Melbourne — recorded 450 new virus cases last Friday alone and has seen record deaths in the past week, making it Australia’s most serious outbreak.
Police in Victoria have vowed to crack down on anyone breaking lockdown restrictions, issuing 196 fines in the past 24 hours for everything from failing to wear a mask to breaching an overnight curfew or collecting a pizza.
The country of 25 million has so far recorded more than 20,000 virus cases and 255 deaths.