74 arrested at Melbourne anti-lockdown demonstration

An Australian police motorcycle rider knocks an anti-lockdown protester to the ground at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market during a rally on Sunday amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Melbourne continues to enforce strict lockdown measures to battle a second wave and Australia has so far reported. Photo: AFP

Authorities in Melbourne arrested more than 74 people for flouting stay-at-home orders to protest against lockdown restrictions Sunday, with some demonstrators clashing with riot police at a market in the city.

About 250 people attended the illegal protest, which was the second in as many days in the city, promoted by coronavirus conspiracy groups on social media.

The demonstrators ignored official warnings and public health orders to gather at the central Queen Victoria market, calling for an end to a weeks-long lockdown of Australia's second-biggest city.

They were met by a heavy police presence, with scuffles breaking out as the riot squad swept through market's fruit and vegetable aisles.

Police arrested 74 people and fined 176, saying in a statement that "many protestors were aggressive and threatened violence toward officers."

One man believed to be a "primary agitator" is facing charges of incitement while another was charged with assaulting police, according to the statement.

Last weekend, "Freedom Day" events were held across Australia to protest what some labeled the government's "overblown" response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 920,000 people worldwide.

The latest rallies come ahead of the gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne, with daily outdoor exercise increased to two hours and small "social bubbles" allowed for people living alone from Monday.