Scores arrested at Melbourne’s ‘Freedom Day’ protests
Victoria Police's tactical unit has boxed in Freedom Day protesters at Albert Park as crowds gather to rally against the state's lockdown.
Authorities fear the protests could spread the deadly coronavirus and set the state back months.
Officers tackled numerous people to the ground as others baited police horses.
The Mounted Branch at one point charged at protesters, scattering them from the path.
Hundreds of police tried to gain control of the protest and police helicopters circled overhead after a tense face-off between officers and anti-lockdown supporters at the Shrine of Remembrance.
A Nine News body guard was tackled by and arrested before being released, as was another man claiming to be a journalist.
Police swarmed a core group of protestors, pushing back media and supporters as they created distance.
A woman with a bloodshot eye said, as she was being restrained by police in riot gear, that her son was inside.
"They've got the boys, he's in there," she said. "He's only 17-years-old."
A man who had been brandishing an Australian flag was later seen being questioned by police.
An 82-year-old protester in Albert Park said COVID-19 was a scam he felt no risk for his life with regard to his age.
"All we're doing is expressing an opinion I thought was was what we were supposed to do we're not causing any risk to public health," he said.
"I'm just going for a walk and using my rights to have an opinion."
Several protestors were arrested at the memorial, before the group marched down Albert Rd to walk around Albert Park as they continue their Freedom Day rally.
Police earlier arrested a man after he and his wife attempted to protest outside Parliament House.
Officers were seen questioning the couple on Parliament Place about 10.30am.
Police were seen arguing with the man who asked if we could walk past Parliament holding a sign saying "state law not consistent with the commonwealth of Australia's constitution" and making reference to section 109.
He also held a megaphone and wore a full body white hazmat suit, but did not wear a mask.
The man was also wearing a T-shirt making reference to the Illuminati.
He was seen live-streaming the arrest and noting what we unfolding around him.
Officers after they handcuffed the man placed a face mask over his mouth.
"A muzzle, they're gagging me," he said, as he was moved to a divy van.
Before he was led away the man was heard telling police his views that coronavirus was a hoax and lockdown was illegal.
"I have a declaration right here from 10 or 12 doctors that was presented to Daniel Andrews they voted only a few days ago that coronavirus was a sham," he said.
Police have also arrested a woman at the Shrine of Remembrance as dozens of officers locked down the memorial ahead of the planned protest.
The woman was handcuffed by police and was crying as she was questioned, before being driven away from the Shrine in a police van.
Officers are stopping all visitors to the site of the Freedom Day rally, with many people being turned away from the monument.
Two maskless women, who claimed to be at the memorial to lay flowers, were also fined by police before being asked to leave the area.
A man took off his mask and confronted officers at the Shrine before being led away in handcuffs.
The man told police he was going to see the dentist but police arrested him and forced a mask on his face.
There is a huge police presence at the Shrine, including Public Order Response Teams and the Mounted Branch.
A bald woman and a elderly man wearing a green face protector were also placed in handcuffs before 10.30am.
Two women, including one in a tin foil hat, were also fined for breach COVID-19 orders.
One woman approached the Herald Sun to ask where all the protesters were and that she had been advised 5000 were already at the Shrine.
POLICE ON PATROL AT CITY LANDMARKS
Earlier in the day, troops on horseback and public order response units could be seen around Parliament House - one of the locations believed to be a target for protestors.
Officers were seen stopping early morning walkers outside the centre of state government, in a bid to crack down on any protestors who might attempt to gather there.
The Shrine of Remembrance, which is also believed to be a target, was saturated with police this morning.
The memorial, near Melbourne's iconic Tan Track, showed no sign of protestors only morning joggers.
Authorities fear the protests could spread the deadly virus and set the state back months.
Under stage four lockdown protesting is strictly forbidden and the force has warned anyone who leaves their home on Saturday can expect to be questioned by officers across wider Melbourne about their movement.
They have threatened to throw the book at anyone who attempts to gather at the sacred Shrine of Remembrance for a planned 'Freedom Rally', saying hefty fines and arrests are likely.
Investigators have drawn up a watch list of close to 100 people of interest whose social media accounts have been actively scrutinised this week, with several arrests made.
On Friday conspiracy theorist James Bartolo, 27, was tackled to the ground in a tense arrest in his Taylors Hill home and charged with incitement, two counts of resist police and possession of prohibited weapons.
The former bodybuilder claimed he was "on the dunny" when officers knocked on his door and his arrest was a "bit of a pain in the arse".
He has since changed his tune urging his followers to abandon the protest.
"It is the worst possible thing to do, do not go to the protest," he said.
A top cop who labelled coronavirus conspiracy theorists as "batshit crazy" and the "tinfoil hat brigade" said every police resource available would be used.
"Our aim is to prevent you from coming into the city," Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said.
"We will be out there in the suburbs. We will be on the road, on public transport. You can expect the police will want to speak to you, want you to explain your permitted reason for leaving (to go to) the city."
Key police assets including the air wing, the mounted brigade, the public order response team and the evidence gathering team will be used.
Mr Cornelius urged people to avoid the protest, saying it will be a "wonderful journey of discovery" for anyone "silly enough" to break the law.
"You would have had to have been on Mars not to know that (you cannot protest)," he said.
"It (the virus) doesn't discriminate on the basis of belief. Don't leave home to protest, don't be selfish."
At least five Victorians have been charged incitement including self-described "vigilante" Anthony Khallouf, 28 and notorious anti-vaxxer Solihin Millin, 76.
Originally published as Scores arrested at Melbourne's 'Freedom Day' protests