(AFP) In Melbourne, over 200 arrests were made by officers using pepper spray as protesters ignored stay-at-home orders.
The protests came as the city is going through its sixth lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic, as the state of Victoria reported over 500 cases of the Chinese coronavirus on Saturday.
Six officers were taken to the hospital after the altercation with a crowd of around 700 people.
“What we saw today was a group of protesters that came together, not to protest freedoms, but simply to take on and have a fight with the police,” Victoria Police Commander Mark Galliott told media.
In an attempt to reduce access to the city center, roads were blocked, and public transportation was stopped to avoid a repeat of violent scenes at a recent rally that drew thousands last month.
However, marchers relocated, with footage from one incident showing the crowd charging through a police line with scuffles along a tram route.
In Sydney, the police managed to deter a similar gathering, as officers swarmed a park where the protest was expected.
New South Wales Police said they arrested around 20 people in the city, mainly across the public transport network, while several others were detained in smaller gatherings around the state.
Both cities are enduring lengthy lockdowns as authorities race to vaccinate a way out of restrictions amid growing outbreaks.
Australia successfully pursued “Covid-zero” for most of the pandemic, enabled mainly by closed international borders and restrictions on movements.
The arrival of the Delta variant saw the two largest cities back under stay-at-home orders earlier this year, and now authorities aim for a 70 percent vaccination rate before easing lockdowns.