Unmasked anti-lockdown protesters have been arrested by police during violent scuffles in Melbourne.
Four men have already been arrested and charged with incitement over the Freedom Day rally planned for several inner-Melbourne locations, including the Shrine of Remembrance, on Saturday.
Those arrests followed the well-publicised arrest of a pregnant Ballarat woman over allegations of a separate rally planned there for Saturday.
Officers were punched by one man at the Shrine on Saturday before being fitted with a mask and handcuffs as protests began.
He was one of more than 20 people arrested at the scene, an AAP photographer reported.
Up to 300 people gathered at the shrine where the mood was described as tense.
Police on horses pushed the mob towards the shrine’s steps, before protesters started to disperse.
Some of the group carried placards with anti-government sentiments and at one stage were singing the Australian anthem.
Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews was updating the daily coronavirus statistics.
Victoria has recorded 76 new cases of COVID-19 overnight and a further 11 deaths – taking the state’s death toll to 661 and the national count to 748.
News of the arrests did not reach the press conference, but Andrews sent a general message to those protesting.
“It is not smart, it is not safe, it is not lawful, in fact it is absolutely selfish to be out there protesting,” he said.
“The only fight we should be engaged in is against this virus.”
Police declined to comment on the ongoing operation.
Andrews is set to announce separate pathways for how and when Melbourne and regional Victoria will come out of respective stage four and three lockdowns on Sunday.
There is no confirmation yet that any restrictions will be eased on September 13, and Andrews isn’t deviating from his pre-set timeline for unveiling the state government’s strategy.
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