Protests and clashes in Victoria

Australians have begun to push back against lockdown restrictions, sparking some worrying responses

Picture by wonderferret on Flickr.

2 minute read — by Sam Feierabend

As the coronavirus pandemic rolls on and more strict lockdown measures are implemented across the globe, unrest within the general public is seemingly simmering near to boiling point. In London, we have seen multiple anti-lockdown and anti-mask protests and in Berlin, the German police shut down a mass protest against coronavirus restrictions. But events surrounding protests in Victoria, Australia have unearthed a wider issue of over-policing and contradiction of a democratic action.

Victoria is the second smallest state in Australia in terms of land mass yet has the most dense population, mainly due to the large city of Melbourne. Australia’s coronavirus curve has been somewhat less severe compared to other developed nations with 27,000 cases by the end of September. However, the issue arises with the fact that 20,000 of the total cases have been in the state of Victoria leading to harsh restrictions being implemented when a fresh wave of the virus hit in August.

Residents of Victoria had their lives heavily restricted with measures including a nightly curfew between 8pm and 5am and people only being allowed to shop and exercise up to 5km from their homes. To push back against these government restrictions, posts on Facebook began to circulate arranging protests across the state which took place on 5th September and were labelled as the Freedom Day protests, as people gathered to protest against the lockdown, mandatory vaccinations and the introduction of 5G. Whilst there were some clashes with the police, for the most part, the protests remained peaceful.

What is worrying are the events that followed. Zoe Buhler was one of the people accredited with organising the protests by setting up the Freedom Day page on Facebook and she was forcibly arrested in her own home in front of her young family for her posts on the social media platform. The event was filmed by her husband and went viral on Australian social media sparking outrage at the police’s actions especially considering that Buhler is pregnant and can be heard saying “I have ultrasound in an hour”.

The backlash from the public and politicians has compared the police actions to a fascist state, completely overriding the democratic right to peacefully protest. With police brutality at the forefront of people’s minds since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius conceded that the officers had “absolutely stuffed” the arrest.

Unfortunately, over-policing is still clearly a global issue and one that has been consistently in the public eye over the locked down world. What has happened in Australia threatens to escalate further and has the potential to spark further outrage against the police and government alike.