Australian police clash with anti-lockdown protesters as violence flares in Melbourne and Sydney

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More than 260 people have been arrested in Melbourne and Sydney as police clashed with anti-lockdown protesters.

Violence broke out as 700 people gathered in Melbourne despite some 2,000 officers securing the city centre with checkpoints, barricades and the suspension of all public transport.

Stones, bottles and traffic cones were thrown as the trouble flared yesterday in the city’s Richmond and Hawthorn neighbourhoods.

Victoria Police said six officers required hospital treatment following the attacks.

“What we saw today was a group of protesters that came together not to protest freedoms, but simply to take on and have a fight with the police,” said commander Mark Galliott.

It followed a 4,000-strong protest in August which officials had described as the most violent in the city for 20 years.

In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrol, detectives and general duties police were also deployed to the streets as around 300 people gathered to protest against the ongoing coronavirus measures there.

Elsewhere in Australia, a demonstration was also held in Brisbane, despite the fact that the city is not in lockdown.

It comes as the country continues to grapple with an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 which has seen Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra placed in strict lockdown for weeks.

Most of the restrictions are to remain in place until at least 70 per cent of those aged over 16 are fully vaccinated, which is likely to be late October or early November.

A high rate of compliance with public health orders has helped Australia keep the number of infections relatively low, with just under 85,000 cases and 1,145 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

But opposition has been growing as lockdowns continue to impinge on people’s personal freedoms.

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