Hundreds of protesters were arrested and police injured on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, in violent clashes with protesters opposed to the lockdown.
The police used pepper spray and made more than 200 arrests in the second most populous city in the country where hundreds of people violated the obligation to stay at home to demonstrate.
Melbourne is experiencing its sixth lockdown since the start of the pandemic and the state of Victoria, where it is located, recorded more than 500 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
Police said six policemen were hospitalized after being shot and stepped on during clashes with some 700 protesters.
“What we saw today is a group that came together, not to demand more freedoms, but to confront and fight with the police,” said the Victoria Police Commander, Mark Galliott, to the press.
Police tried to prevent protesters from entering the city center, blocking roads and stopping public transport, in order to avoid a repeat of the scenes of violence that marked the previous rally in August, in which had taken part thousands of people.
The demonstrators therefore found themselves elsewhere. Footage shows a crowd rushing through a police cordon as scuffles erupt along a streetcar line.
In Sydney, a large police force was deployed in a park to prevent a similar gathering.
New South Wales Police said they had arrested around 20 people in the city and at limited rallies across the state.
Sydney has been confined since the end of June and Melbourne since the end of July.
Authorities are working to find a way to ease these restrictions as the number of cases continues to rise.
During most of the pandemic, Australia had one of the lowest infection rates in the world thanks to its ‘zero COVID’ strategy, consisting of strict border closures, contact tracing and intense screening campaigns.
The resurgence of the epidemic due to the Delta variant in mid-June in Sydney led to a change in strategy and greater public support for vaccination against COVID-19.
The authorities are now targeting a vaccination rate of 70% to be able to relax the measures.