Thousands protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Australian capital

protest

CANBERRA: FEB. 13 – Thousands of Australians have gathered in the nation’s capital to protest coronavirus vaccine mandates.

Up to 10,000 people during the weekend took to the streets of Canberra to urge the federal, state and territory governments to immediately abolish all health orders making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for workers.

Protesters have gathered in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) since late January but police said there was a “significant influx” for Saturday’s rally, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Three people were arrested on Saturday and more than 100 breached barriers were erected at Parliament House but police said protesters were “generally well behaved.”

The ACT police have warned protesters camping at Canberra’s Exhibition Park that they have until Sunday to leave the site or face arrest for trespassing.

The Opposition Labor Party on Sunday urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take a stronger stance against the protesters after members of the government joined the rallies.

“He should stand up and condemn the violent extremists who are part of that protest, and he should make clear it has no place in Australian democracy,” Kristina Keneally, Labor’s Home Affairs spokesperson, told the ABC television on Sunday.

On Saturday, Morrison told reporters that the protesters were “speaking up for the things they feel strongly about.”

“The Commonwealth government has only ever supported mandates that relate to aged care workers, disability workers and those who are working in high-risk situations in the health system,” he said.

“All other mandates that relate to vaccines have been imposed unilaterally by state governments.”

Australia on Sunday morning reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases and 45 deaths – 22 in New South Wales, 18 in Victoria, four in Queensland and one in the Northern Territory.