Up to 10,000 anti-vaccine protesters have taken to the streets of Canberra, with police present during incredible scenes near Parliament House.
February 12, 2022 – 3:59PM NCA NewsWire
Three people have been arrested after about 10,000 anti-vaccine mandate protesters swarmed Canberra.
Convoy to Canberra protesters have been gathering at the nation’s capital for the past two weeks, with the main focus on Saturday at Parliament House where people arrived after a march in the morning.
The crowd was so huge that it spread out over the grass areas between Old Parliament House and Parliament House, as well as the lawns to State Circle.
One man was arrested after he breached a fence and ran onto the forecourt area, with police quickly tackling him to the ground.
Two other people were also arrested during the protest, police revealed.
“One man was charged with multiple offences after he drove his truck through a roadblock and two men were taken into custody for breaching the peace,” a spokesperson said.
Demonstrators against Covid-19 mandates marching to Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman
Police estimated up to 10,000 protesters moved down Commonwealth Ave and congregated in the Federation Mall.
“The crowd was generally well behaved,” a spokesperson said.
Some protesters held signs and flags as they marched, including one that read: “No more mandates.”
Many also joined in to chant: “Sack them all!”
There were fears the protesters might attend a children’s “Superhero Day” vaccination event at the Australian Institute of Sport clinic, but police said that did not eventuate.
“ACT Policing reminds people camping at Exhibition Park in Canberra that they must leave the venue by Sunday to ensure preparations for the Royal Canberra Show can occur,” the spokesperson said.
Thousands swarmed the streets to take part in the protest. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier said Australia was “a free country” and protesters had a right to voice their opinion, but he asked they do it in a “peaceful and respectful way”.
“The Commonwealth government have only ever supported mandates that relate to aged care workers, disability workers and that those that are working in high-risk situations in health system,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“My government has only ever supported mandates that have been recommended right across the country by the medical expert panel and our chief medical officers.
“All other mandates that relate to vaccines have been imposed unilaterally by state governments.”
The demonstrators carried flags as they marched. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman
Protesters had indicated they were displeased with the way the Morrison Government had handled the pandemic, but the Prime Minister said Australia had the lowest death rate of almost any country in the world.
“We have one of the strongest economies to come through Covid that of any country in the world, particularly advanced economies, and we have one of the highest vaccination rates with 95 per cent of our population over the age of 16 having had their vaccinations — this is what is keeping Australia safe,” he said.
“We now have a record that is the envy of almost any other country in the world.
“Now, if others want to criticise us for that, they are at liberty to do so.
“If others want to seek to undermine that recovery or pretend that they would have done things differently or got better outcomes, well, there are plenty of armchair critics out there.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked protesters to be ‘peaceful and respectful’. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told the protesters to “go home”.
“It doesn’t advance any cause, it doesn’t assist any of the nonsense we’ve seen of people dressed up in military camouflage walking around Canberra,” he said.
“If you think that’s the way that you win support for your view in Australia, I think you’re very wrong.
“I think these people need to just go home and think about the facts which are out there and the facts are that you are far more likely to avoid getting Covid if you’re fully vaccinated.
“The fact is that if you do get Covid, you’re far less likely to have an acute health concern if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re far less likely to suffer death if you’re fully vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson took to social media saying: “I hope you’re all behind this Convoy to Canberra.”
“Convoy to Canberra has arrived,” she also posted.
“Say hi if you’re here and see me.”
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has told ralliers to “say hi” to her at the protest. Picture: Supplied
ACT Police had been prepared for the AIS event to be disrupted.
The dress-up event was aimed at children aged five to 11 to “channel their inner superpowers” and make the experience of lining up for their first jab more enjoyable.
“ACT Policing would like to reassure all of Canberra’s young superheroes, and anyone attending the AIS Arena mass vaccination clinic (on Saturday), that they will be able to do so safely,” ACT Police wrote on social media on Friday.
“There will be a police presence with a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who seeks to intimidate or harass those attending the clinic.”
The PM urged protesters to be peaceful. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
There was a high police presence. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman
Lifeline Canberra decided to close the doors to its book fair to keep its staff and patrons safe during the protest.
The Capital Regional Farmers Market was also cancelled due to safety concerns and logistics for customers.
“It is a devastating result for our farmers and producers following on from the last two years,” the market’s social media post read.
It’s been suggested the vaccination clinic at the AIS Arena will be targeted on Saturday. Picture: NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Protesters have targeted Parliament House and other parts of the nation’s capital over the past two weeks.
There have been major disruptions to traffic with the Convoy to Canberra clogging roads and police putting measures in place to restrict access to parliament.
Demonstrators marched through Canberra’s city centre on Thursday afternoon, then rallied through the courts precinct on Friday morning, with some moving to the city police station later in the day.