After last week’s protest turned violent, police deterred a protest against the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney on Saturday.
New South Wales Police said in a statement that over 1,300 officers were involved in a high-visibility operation across Sydney.
The police were there to avoid a repeat of last week’s protest where New South Wales police arrested 57 people. The unauthorized protest against COVID-19 restrictions sparked brawls, according to ABC News Australia.
Along with the police presence, authorities issued a prohibition notice to taxi, rideshare, and passenger services from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on transporting passengers to the central business district.
The notice came after last week’s anti-lockdown protest, which saw thousands of people block traffic on Sydney’s Broadway before marching to Town Hall in the CBD, where protesters hurled objects at mounted police, according to local media.
According to a NSW police statement, eight people were arrested during the high-visibility police operation, and more than 250 Penalty Infringement Notices were issued for violating public health orders.
“The vast majority of infringement notices were issued to individuals for breaching the stay-at-home orders by traveling outside their government areas,” Metropolitan Operations Commander, Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said in the NSW police statement. “Officers from across the Traffic and Highway Patrol and Police Transport Commands formed a defined barrier around the city, to monitor and prevent persons intent on traveling to the city to protest.”
A strike force with 22 detectives to apprehend people who broke the law was established after last week’s protest, NSW police announced last week.
NSW Shadow Police Minister Walt Secord told Sky News the high-visibility police operation was an “overwhelming success.”
“Those far-right conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers crawled back under the rocks that they live under,” he said. “It was an overwhelming success, and I want to thank police officers who showed up today.”
Academic Kas Ross, who has done research on the growing far-right movement, told The Sydney Morning Herald that even though police averted the protest Saturday, the movement may continue to grow amid the lockdown.
Ross compared the Sydney movement to the Melbourne movement, which has drawn QAnon conspiracy theorists, libertarians, and Trump supporters, many of whom have never attended a rally before. He stated that it was at a similar stage of development.
“As long as there are lockdowns in place and people in some suburbs find they can’t leave the house without being questioned by police, and they see pictures of people lying on Bondi Beach…some will protest,” Ross said.