Hundreds of police spread across Sydney to shut down planned anti-lockdown demonstrations on Saturday, as protesters tried to outsmart officers by finding alternative routes and protest locations.
NSW Police arrived at Sydney Park, St Peters, in at least five busloads on Saturday morning and were ready on cycles, on horseback and on foot to prevent demonstrators massing there, as a police operation blocked roads leading to the park.
Several arrests were made at Sydney Park, with protesters placed in police paddy wagons.
The city-wide operation recreated a ‘ring of steel’ surrounding the CBD which worked for them last month, consisting of checkpoints on major roads leading to the centre of Sydney.
But protesters are attempting to use the real-time traffic alert app Waze to select alternative routes without heavy police presence.
They have also planned protests at suburban locations, including Bass Hill, near Bankstown.
One post from ‘Worldwide Rally for Freedom’ organisers planning to converge on Bass Hill read, ‘Bring your friends and arrive early. Blend in. Be ready to join the crowd at 12.00pm’.
NSW Police arrived at Sydney Park, St Peters, in busloads on Saturday morning and were ready on cycles and on foot to prevent demonstrators massing, as a police operation blocked several roads in the area
NSW Police engaged their ‘ring of steel’ around the city again on Saturday, which succeeded in minimising the number of protesters entering the city by car last month. But it is understood protesters were using the Waze app to find alternative routes
NSW Police hit the streets on Saturday morning, gathering at Sydney Park, but also attending Victoria Park and Hyde Park as they tried to stop anti-lockdown protests getting underway
There were reports of NSW police swarming on Bass Hill Plaza just before midday Saturday.
The city-wide police operation also prevented trains from stopping at St Peters or Redfern, at any City Circle stops or at Martin Place for five hours.
Ride-sharing services were also banned from dropping passengers off too.
Neighbours and users of popular Sydney Park, which is adjacent Newtown and Alexandria, said the heavy policy presence was keeping them home.
Around 10am Saturday one local man tweeted ‘Came to Sydney Park for some recreation with my daughter. There is an insane police presence here! Apparently about a protest happening here later.’
Another local reported police helicopters had been deployed, possibly to identify groups of protesters gathering.
NSW Police were determined to prevent an anti-lockdown protest forming in Sydney on Saturday and focused on Sydney Park, St Peters
Police arrive at Sydney Park, St Peters on Saturday morning to try and prevent an anti-lockdown protest forming
NSW Police used drones to try and track the movements of suspected anti-lockdown protesters on Saturday
‘I got 20 cops standing directly across the road from my house having a meeting and can hear the chopper flying overhead,’ he tweeted.
Police were also using drones to spot protesters’ movements.
NSW Transport warned the public to follow police instructions when using roads in the area, to be patient as traffic would be slow southbound on Euston Road near the park.
The police Minister David Elliott warned protesters to stay home or face the consequences – and to ‘take a good look at themselves’.
‘We’ve seen past protesters end up contracting COVID-19, so anyone who is still considering protesting needs to take a good hard look at themselves.’
Police also focused on another possible protest site nearby, at Victoria Park, where they managed to break up an anti-lockdown protest before it gained any momentum last month
NSW Police action at Victoria Park at the edge of the Sydney CBD, prevented an anti-lockdown protest from achieving a critical mass in late August
NSW Police also focused on another possible protest site nearby, at Victoria Park, where they managed to break up an anti-lockdown protest before it gained any momentum last month.
On that occasion police succeeding in preventing groups of protesters gathering to form a critical mass, partly through their ‘ring of steel’ tactic.
On Saturday the ring of steel was again set up, with officers checking motorists’ reasons for driving towards the city.
Trains were also prevented from stopping at any stations in or around the city between 9am and 2pm, including all CBD stations, St Peters and Redfern.
NSW police promised an equally ‘highly visible’ operation to prevent protesters from gathering in large numbers for another march.
NSW Police gathered early around Sydney Park and made arrests, before protest organisers moved their attention to Bass Hill around midday
NSW Police suceeded to breaking up planned protests at Victoria Park in late August
Officers head to Sydney Park on Saturday with an anti-lockdown protest planned
Metropolitan Field Operations deputy commissioner Mal Lanyon also said police would be ready to respond to any last-minute location changes.
‘We are continuing to monitor online commentary and have put in place an extremely mobile police operation with significant resources, to respond to whatever situation we are faced with,’ he said.
Meanwhile the leaderless anti-lockdown protests in NSW are diverting an enormous amount of police resources that could otherwise be used to help with the COVID-19 crisis.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says anti-lockdown protests are wasting valuable resources that could otherwise be diverted to help with the state’s escalating COVID crisis.
On Tuesday police broke up almost 100 small anti-lockdown protests across NSW, arresting more than 150 people and issuing 570 fines.
Last month 1500 police turned out in force in Sydney to quell protests which followed a larger violent protest in the CBD in July.
Mr Fuller told a NSW budget estimates hearing on Wednesday that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic there had been around 1000 protests a year, which were generally peaceful, well organised and with very few arrests.
‘But obviously the COVID protests are very different,’ he said.
Because the anti-lockdown protests were illegal ‘you don’t tend to have protest organisers, you just have a group of people … a rabble if you like turning up’.
‘It’s using up an enormous amount of police resources that could well be used assisting health at the moment,’ Mr Fuller said.
‘I just think people underestimate the risks they take coming together in such big numbers.
‘It just makes no sense – there are so many other ways people can protest at the moment without actually having to turn up.’
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