Anti-vaccination protesters in Melbourne stormed a Saturday cricket match and clashed with police before widespread arrests were made.
Protestors at an anti-vaccination rally have been arrested following clashes with police in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.
Hundreds of people descended on Fawkner Park to protest the national coronavirus vaccine rollout in Fawkner Park at South Yarra on Saturday afternoon, before the rally ended in multiple arrests.
Police confirmed 20 people were arrested during the rally and of those 15 will will be fined for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions.
Another five people were charged on summons for resisting arrest, hindering police and refusing to provide their details.
The protest comes as Australia is expected to roll out the first jabs on Monday.
The federal government has said the vaccine program will not be mandatory but it’s likely some workplaces considered “high risk” may insist on employees getting the shot.
One of the speakers at the event was Independent MP Catherine Cummings who took to the stage telling the crowd she was “pro-vaccine” but “pro-medical choice”.
When she asked the crowd to socially distance into groups of 20 she was met with boos before a chant of “freedom, freedom, freedom” erupted from onlookers.
A heavy police presence watched the speeches with at least a hundred officers on the ground, a police helicopter overhead and mounted officers.
“This is the most abhorrent war in the history of mankind. They are trying to keep us safe from a non-existent pandemic,” a speaker called Jacqui told the crowd.
She falsely claimed there was no medical, scientific or physical evidence to support the pandemic.
But Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton urged Victorians to ignore the movement against the vaccine and said the shot was “genuinely our way out of this” referring to the pandemic.
“There’s definitely a lot of misinformation out there but that can all be shot down – it is simply not true,” he told reporters on Saturday.
He said with 150 million vaccine doses distributed worldwide, there was evidence they were safe.
“The reality is, it’s gone through a really rigorous quality and safety review process,” Dr Sutton said.
After speakers addressed the crowd, the group began to march out of the park, shutting down Toorak Road as police on horseback worked to keep them away from traffic.
Chants of “freedom, freedom, freedom” rang out during the march, along with shouts of “we will not comply”.
When the crowd descended on St Kilda Road, some police had bottles of water thrown at them and protestors were pepper sprayed.
The crowd also yelled abuse at reporters and targeted TV crews.
Cries of “report the real news” were yelled at reporters as some protesters were arrested and taken from the scene.
Officers were seen flooding the pitch as they worked to get people away from the pitck, the man heard telling police to “f*** off” as they tried to put a mask on him.
Protestors chanted “we will not comply”during the event and likened those being vaccinated to “farm animals” and “slaves”.
“We are not Scott Morrison’s chickens,” one speaker told the crowd.
Some protestors were pepper sprayed on St Kilda Road.
Rally-goers could be heard yelling at police: “Shame on you” as people were arrested.
The Melbourne Freedom Rally group posted unfounded claims on social media about the coronavirus vaccine about fertility and falsely claimed the FDA had not approved the use of the vaccine.
Speaking in Melbourne on Saturday, Labor MP Bill Shorten had one message for people at the protest.
“Please, think about everyone else,” he said.
Mr Shorten said he understood people did not want to be forced into getting a COVID-19 jab.
But he reiterated vaccines were important to the survival of sporting events, the travel industry and live events.
“Vaccinations are part of Australia’s path back to normality after COVID-19 disaster,” Mr Shorten said.
“I would just say to the anti-vaxxers, you’re actually making it hard for the whole country.”
The majority of the crowd dispersed by 3pm.