Melbourne is bracing for its fourth day of protests, as police report fewer demonstrators are tradies angered by mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or the construction industry shutdown.
About 300 to 400 protesters again swarmed the city on Wednesday, despite stay-at-home orders and repeated warnings from authorities.
Chanting “every day” from the Shrine of Remembrance, hundreds without masks – some still wearing high-visibility clothing – marched through the city to the war memorial.
Heavily armed police surrounded the shrine, leading to a tense stand-off with protesters that lasted about three hours.
Riot squad members appeared to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and other non-lethal rounds when some of the mob became increasingly hostile and refused to leave.
Two officers suffered head injuries after bottles were thrown at them.
Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said 215 arrests were made over the course of the day and condemned the occupation of the shine for political purposes.
“It was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the shrine, which is such hallowed ground in this great city,” he told reporters.
RSL Victoria said the mob had disrespected the sanctity of the sacred site, while Shrine of Remembrance chair Stephen Bowater called it “disgraceful”.
The protests initially began in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms, but have since turned into wider unrest.
“Our general observation from the people on the ground was that there weren't as many tradies involved,” Mr Guenther said.
Police took a more aggressive approach to the mob after they wreaked havoc on the West Gate Freeway on Tuesday, and plan to keep them guessing.
“We will vary our tactics tomorrow. But, of course, my message is don't come into the city,” the deputy commissioner said.
Victoria recorded 628 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily tally of the state's current outbreak.
Meanwhile, the regional city of Ballarat emerged from a seven-day lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, although strict rules remain.Internet Explorer Channel Network