Chaos erupts in Sydney as anti-lockdown protesters clash with police

Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters descended on Sydney's CBD on Saturday afternoon as New South Wales announced a new daily record for COVID-19 cases.

The Australian state recorded 163 community cases on Saturday and one death as the state enters what State Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a "national emergency".

Greater Sydney and its surrounds have now been in a COVID-19 lockdown for four weeks, but many residents have had enough with thousands on Saturday taking to the city's CBD streets to protest.

Unmasked protesters gathered in Victoria Park around midday and marched towards Sydney's Town Hall, chanting "freedom" and demanding the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported people were seen waving the Australian flag and holding placards reading "I do not consent", "drain the swamp" and "wake up Australia".

In the city, protesters clashed with a wall of police officers and riot squads, with ABC News reporting protesters were throwing objects at officers.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Protesters march down George St on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists gathered in cities across Australia with New South Wales and Victoria are under strict Covid-19 restrictions as the states continue to fight the spread of the delta coronavirus strain. (Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: A man is apprehended by police in a Camperdown back street on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists gathered in cities across Australia with New South Wales and Victoria are under strict Covid-19 restrictions as the states continue to fight the spread of the delta coronavirus strain. (Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

Brawls reportedly broke out among protesters and NSW police confirmed a number of people had been arrested during the operation.

"The NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, today's protest is in breach of the current COVID-19 Public Health Orders.

"The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Protesters march down City Rd on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists gathered in cities across Australia with New South Wales and Victoria are under strict Covid-19 restrictions as the states continue to fight the spread of the delta coronavirus strain. (Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was asked about his thoughts on the protests, which he described as "really silly", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"At the present time we've got cases going through the roof, and we have people thinking that it's OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration," he said on Saturday morning.

"We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people's right to protest, but I actually think it is really silly."

Mounted police try to steer protesters away in Camperdown on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
Mounted police try to steer protesters away in Camperdown on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Photo credit: Getty Images
 A woman tries to push past police in a Camperdown back street on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
A woman tries to push past police in a Camperdown back street on July 24, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Guardian reported similar scenes unfolded in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane where protests on a smaller scale were held.

Some protesters lit flares, while others held banners reading: "This is not about a virus, it's about total government control of the people."

Protesters hold a banner while walking through Bourke Street during a World Wide rally for freedom on July 24, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
Protesters hold a banner while walking through Bourke Street during a World Wide rally for freedom on July 24, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo credit: Getty Images
A protester holds a flare in front of Parliament House during a World Wide rally for freedom.
A protester holds a flare in front of Parliament House during a World Wide rally for freedom. Photo credit: Getty Images