Truckies, supporters around Australia stage ‘freedom of choice’ protests at councils, major roads

Hundreds of people have been fined and dozens more arrested after police officers were injured during anti-lockdown protests across NSW.

More than 150 people have been arrested and almost 600 fined at dozens of unauthorised anti-lockdown, “pro-choice” rallies across NSW.

Thousands of Australians around the country turned out to organised protests to call for an end to stay-at-home orders and mandatory vaccinations, including at 69 events in NSW.

Most of the NSW protests were attended by a handful of people who gathered outside local council chambers, as well as at Parliament House and Government House in Sydney.

Three police officers sustained minor injuries in altercations with protesters at Raymond Terrace in the Hunter and at Lismore and Murwillumbah in the state’s Northern Rivers.

NSW Police deputy commissioner Mal Lanyon condemned the rallies.

“Today’s actions only further serve to jeopardise the freedoms of those people who are doing the right thing,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Commissioner Lanyon said police anticipated more anti-lockdown events as Covid-19 outbreaks and tough social distancing restrictions continued.

“We certainly believe that in the current climate that there will be fringe groups, there will be people that disagree with the greater community and certainly with government and will seek to protest,” he said.

Many of the 153 people who were arrested were released after officers were able to establish their identity to issue them with penalty infringement notices (PINs), police said in a statement.

Others have been charged with offences including various breaches of the public health order, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

Protesters racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fines, with 573 PINs issued, ranging from $500 fines for not wearing a mask up to $3000 for breaching stay-at-home orders.

Police say they expect more PINs to be issued including $5000 to those who were supposed to be self-isolating when they attended the protests.

Other mostly unmasked groups gathered outside council chambers and parliament houses and on major roads in Queensland and Victoria in a sign of defiance.

Originally planned by irate truck drivers fighting back against mandatory testing and vaccination, the events were hijacked by ordinary Australians furious about ongoing lockdowns and restrictions.

Police believe the planned truck blockade and the council chamber protests were the work of separate organisers.

Parliament House in Brisbane went into lockdown, while fines were issued at protests in Liverpool and Sutherland in NSW.

There are fears the gatherings of demonstrators outside Blacktown Council, Sutherland Council, Hills Council, Canada Bay Council, Waverley Council and Liverpool Council could become superspreader events.

In northern parts of the state, truck drivers and other demonstrators turned out by the dozens in Ballina and Mullumbimby.

Several of the protests were “silent protests”.

Protests had been organised by truckies furious about mandatory vaccinations for authorised workers – including truck drivers – from 12 local government areas in Sydney.

In addition, essential workers travelling into Queensland are now required to have had at least one dose of vaccine.

Around the country, truck drivers must be tested for Covid-19 regularly.

One of the figureheads of the campaign, Brock, took to TikTok on Tuesday morning to encourage people – whether they drive a truck or not – to support the protest.

“Today’s the big one and we’re going to kill it. I know we will,” he said.

“It’s all about people’s freedom.”

Tuesday’s protests come a day after trucks caused peak hour chaos on the Gold Coast by blocking an exit.

Senator Pauline Hanson, who had been in attendance to support the movement, had to ask the truck drivers to move on.

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