Clashes erupted with police in Melbourne, Australia after a crowd of anti-lockdown protesters gathered to demand an end to weeks of draconian restrictions, despite an all-out effort by authorities to prevent demonstrations.

The protesters, who reportedly numbered in the hundreds, showed up in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond on Saturday morning to denounce government lockdown policies. Police previously attempted to shut down all transport into Melbourne’s Central Business District using a series of checkpoints, but that merely prompted organizers to shift locations. 

Protesters break through the police line, an officer gets assaulted and trampled by demonstrators, people are screaming and covered in capsicum spray

Brief clashes with officers were captured on film, with protesters seen hurling bottles as police responded with pepper spray. At one chaotic moment, demonstrators crashed through a police line, setting off a melee as the crowd proceeded down the road.

Protesters throw water bottles at officers at more pepper spray deployed

A massive police response was seen in aerial photos taken by local media, showing riot lines closing in on a crowd of demonstrators.

#BREAKING: Anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne are defying police warnings and are staging demonstrations in the city today.DETAILS:

The law enforcement presence involved more than 2,000 officers, according to local reports.

Police March towards protesters who refuse to clear the area, some marchers getting pepper sprayed

The state of Victoria recently eased Melbourne’s restrictions, allowing residents to “socialize or exercise” with one person from another household for a whopping four hours. It also permitted up to five people from two different households to gather at one time – if all of them are fully vaccinated. The marginal easing of the rules apparently did little to quell angry locals fed up with lockdowns, however, as Saturday’s protest went off regardless.

Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley has suggested the state could remain under lockdown until 70-80% of residents are vaccinated. Until then, only the fully immunized will be permitted to enjoy certain freedoms, such as private gatherings with people from several households. To date, just shy of 42% of the state has been fully vaccinated, according to data gathered by The Guardian, suggesting a long road ahead for those tired of endless lockdowns.

Police have being pepper spraying #freedomrally marchers

Somehow a few hundred people have managed to gather on Bridge Road. They say police are not the enemy: the government is.

Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne is currently under its sixth lockdown since the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off in late 2019, with residents required to remain at home barring a few exceptions for “essential” work and travel. The shutdowns have prompted a spate of protests across Australia in recent weeks, including in other major cities like Sydney. 

Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has seen a spike in coronavirus infections since August, with health officials pinning new outbreaks on the more contagious Delta variant. There are currently just shy of 5,000 active Covid cases in Victoria, with 535 new infections reported over the last 24 hours, according to Victoria health authorities.

Police and protesters in a stalemate as officers March towards the crowd in swarms. Increasingly hostile mood

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