Melbourne Sep 14 (PTI) Australian police have arrested 74 people and fined another 176 for flouting coronavirus restrictions during anti-lockdown protests here in the country's second largest city.
Victoria is Australia's worst virus-hit state with nearly 20,000 cases and 729 deaths so far. The state has been in a stage 4 lockdown since August 4.
Protesters demonstrated outside the Queen Victoria Market on Sunday, chanting 'freedom, freedom.' Soon clashes broke out with authorities, who demanded the gathering be disbanded in view of the social-distancing norms.
Officials said over 250 people had gathered outside the market.
The police had to step in, arresting 74 people and fining 176 others for violation of various norms, officials said.
Melbourne suburb, also called the Central Business District, was seen with heavy police patrolling at night.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius criticised the protesters calling them 'selfish'. He said violation of health norms would not be tolerated.
A police spokesperson said many of the protesters were aggressive and threatened to attack the officers. One of the protesters was charged with assault.
'There were no injuries among the police. Significant prevention activity was taken up, which included visiting 90 people at their homes and urging them not to attend the demonstration,' a police statement said.
'Our investigations into this protest will continue, and we expect to issue further fines once the identity of individuals is confirmed. Anyone thinking of attending a protest can expect the same swift and firm response,' the statement added.
The coronavirus has claimed 816 lives with 26,692 confirmed cases in Australia so far. PTI NC IND AKJ IND