The anti-lockdown rallies that were held across Australia and turned into potential super-spreading events were planned for weeks on social media by conspiracy theorists.
Police had been monitoring the encrypted messaging platform Telegram as early as May before protests broke out in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide on Saturday.
Plans for a rally then gained momentum on Facebook and Instagram, where news began to circulate in fringe social media groups rife with Covid-19 conspiracy theories and anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination sentiment.
One of the alleged organizers of the rally was Anthony Khallouf, who runs a website called Australians vs The Agenda.
The anti-lockdown rallies that were held across Australia and became potential super-spreading events had been planned on social media for weeks by conspiracy theorists (photo, tackled protester on Sydney garden bed)
Police kept an eye on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram as early as May before protests broke out in Sydney (pictured), Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide on Saturday.
One of the organizers of the rally was Anthony Khallouf, who runs a website called Australians vs The Agenda
The website promises to fight the “socialist, communist, fascist state” and the “scams” of Covid-19.
He is currently facing charges over his alleged role in protests in Melbourne last year.
‘Sydney CBD takeover’ began to become a trend as social media plotters shared links with British conspiracy theorist David Icke, independent MP Craig Kelly and the Qanon movement.
Group chats on Telegram started to balloon and were split into regions with as many as 2,300 Sydney residents and 3,800 Melburnians participating in the online conversations.
A national group chat with as many as 11,000 members was also set up.
More than 3,500 protesters came to the rally in Sydney on Saturday and thousands more in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Khallouf praised the turnout, claiming there were over 100,000 people.
“This wasn’t just a slam dunk, it was a home run, a Premiership team going from 18 up the ladder to destroy Richmond by 100 points,” he said. the Australian.
‘It was such a crazy day; coordinating an event where more than 100,000 people across the country are protesting about the exact same thing, at the exact same time and getting it done without a hitch is a very proud moment.”
There are fears the rallies could become a super-spreading event after protesters flouted orders to stay at home, put on face masks and ignore social distancing.
More than 3,500 protesters came to the rally in Sydney on Saturday and thousands more marched in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane (pictured, protester placed in handcuffs outside Sydney City Hall)
Khallouf praised the turnout, claiming there were over 100,000 people (photo, protester outside Sydney City Hall)
Police have already started tracking down protesters who attended the demonstrations and handing out fines (photo, Sydney protester tackled by police)
Mr Khallouf said he had no regrets if someone contracted Covid-19.
“There’s a whole bunch of left-wing extremists who target us and people in our community and say you’re an idiot for being there, or they call it a ‘free-dumb’ rally or an anti-lockdown protest whatever it is. wasn’t — it was called World Wide Rally for Freedom,” he said.
Police have already started tracking down protesters who attended the demonstrations.
About 57 people have been charged and 90 fined in Sydney, while 73 have been fined and six arrested in Melbourne.
A 33-year-old Surry Hills man and a 36-year-old man from Edensor Park were in court on Sunday after they allegedly hit a police horse during the protest.
The Edensor Park man was also charged with assaulting a police officer.
NSW Police said they received 5,000 tips and identified more than 200 people who attended after a special task force was set up in the wake of the protest.
NSW Police said they received 5,000 tips and identified more than 200 people who attended after a special task force was set up in the wake of the protest
Some protesters took it upon themselves to set off smoke bombs during protests in Melbourne where six were arrested
Thousands showed up in Sydney and Melbourne (pictured) demanding an end to the Covid-19 lockdowns
Members of the public are being asked to upload videos or photos of the protest to CrimeStoppers in order to track down more participants.
In Victoria, 73 people have been fined and six arrested for attending the protest.
Luke Cornelius, assistant commissioner of Victoria Police, said police had been reviewing hundreds of hours of footage from social media, CCTV and body-worn cameras and more fines would follow.
“Your faces are on the front page of our major newspapers. Your faces are on social media. Your faces are published, far and wide,’ said Mr Cornelius.
Another man is seen on the ground after being tackled by police in Sydney as thousands gathered to demonstrate against the city’s lockdowns
A woman sobs as she is led out of Victoria Park by two police officers during violent protests in Sydney
“I’d say any Victorian outraged by this, if you know who those people are, call CrimeStoppers and let us know who they are and we’ll take action.”
Their investigation includes the alleged assault of a mounted officer injured by a flying bollard.
Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews described the protesters as “selfish” but was reasonably confident it wouldn’t become a super-dissemination event, as the state’s 11 new cases on Sunday had all been linked and isolated.
New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said she was disgusted and heartbroken by those who had shown “utter disregard for their fellow citizens”.
“We know that events like this can trigger those super-spreading events,” she said on Sunday, as the state registered 141 new COVID-19 cases and saw two deaths.
“Please know that all the sacrifices we’ve made especially over the past three or four weeks have allowed us to stabilize growth in cases.
“We don’t want a setback, and yesterday could have been a setback.”