Police will take a zero tolerance approach with anti-lockdown protesters daring to cause more chaos this weekend, as online conspiracy theorists continue to stir up thousands of disillusioned followers.
More than 3,500 protesters took to the streets of Sydney CBD on Saturday, demanding an end to the five-week coronavirus lockdown.
The protest, which saw copycat events in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, was planned weeks in advance on social media by a shady army of online conspiracy theorists.
Police had been monitoring the encrypted messaging platform Telegram as early as May before protests broke out.
Plans for a gathering then gained momentum on Facebook and Instagram, where the news began to circulate in fringe social media groups rife with conspiracy theories and anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination sentiment.
Some violently clashed with police, leading to ugly scenes that shocked the nation, with 63 protesters charged so far with various offenses and more arrests expected.
NSW police are aware of “discussions” online about another protest this Saturday, which led to a blunt warning from the state’s top agent.
NSW Police will be back in force this weekend as the anti-lockdown takes to the streets again. The photo shows a protester being led away in Sydney on Saturday
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller warned that police will once again act vigorously and that the response will be similar to that of the Cronulla riots 15 years ago.
“May I now pass this warning on to everyone – that will be heavily monitored, we will be on the scene very early,” Mr Fuller said Monday.
“You will be arrested.”
“The community has talked about that behavior. The Prime Minister has spoken about that behavior and it is no longer tolerated.’
He believes “anarchists” are behind the demonstrations, who, unlike Black Lives Matter protesters who took to the streets last June, have not formally registered the protest.
“There are no organizers that we can drag to the Supreme Court to stop the protests, which means they are a bunch of anarchists, which means that in terms of the police response, it will be significant, on Saturday if it is scheduled.” to continue,” Commissioner Fuller added.
NSW police have mounted the largest strike force since the Cronulla riots in response to the anti-lockdown protest in Sydney on Saturday. Pictured is a protester being arrested by the police
NSW police have quickly set up Strike Force Seasoned to track down all those present at Saturday’s protest, now feared by health officials as a coronavirus super-spread event.
More than 250 public infringement notices have already been issued.
Crime Stoppers NSW has received more than 10,000 tips from the public after NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian and Police Minister David Elliott urged residents to catch up with those who posted images of themselves during the protest.
Strike detectives are also analyzing images from social media, CCTV and police-worn body cameras to identify more.
Fuller didn’t mince words when he spoke to 2GB breakfast radio host Ben Fordham earlier on Monday.
Some protesters during Saturday’s demonstration violently clashed with police (pictured), leading to ugly scenes that shocked the nation
“The strike force we have set up is probably the largest since the Cronulla riots to ensure we hold these grubs to account,” he said.
“We saw violence at a level we haven’t seen since 2005.”
Twenty-one men appeared in Parramatta local court on Sunday, where 15 were released on bail to appear at a later date in Downing Center and Newtown local courts.
Investigators have since issued more than 250 public notices of infringement.
Among those charged on Sunday was Jon-Bernard Kairouz, 24, the TikTok comedian who developed a cult following for predicting NSW’s daily Covid count after being filmed addressing the large crowd of protesters at a megaphone.
Top NSW cop Mick Fuller (pictured) issued a blunt warning to anyone planning to attend another protest this weekend
Former NRL star Frank Winterstein and his anti-vaxxer wife Taylor also received public notices of infringement after documenting their presence at the protest on social media.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said she was “really upset” about the illegal protest as NSW registered 145 new cases on Monday.
“I just can’t understand the motivation at a time like that. I mean, I look at the data every day on the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths and the number of young people affected,” she said.
“It’s actually quite distressing, so I think we all have a collective responsibility to vaccinate.”
Kristian Pulkownik was arrested after a photo allegedly showing his fist making contact with the face of a police horse named Tobruk went viral overnight