Several thousand individuals protested new vaccine mandates in Melbourne on Saturday, with some comparing the state administration to Nazis and calling for violence against lawmakers, according to local media.
In Australia, where 83 percent of persons aged 16 and up have been fully immunized against the coronavirus, immunizations are entirely voluntary. However, several states and territories have mandated vaccinations for numerous jobs and have prohibited unvaccinated people from participating in activities such as dining out and attending concerts.
The Melbourne protest against the vaccination mandate, which went into force on Saturday and requires all construction workers in Victoria state to be completely immunized, was quiet, with no incidents of disorderly behavior or arrests.
However, a reporter for The Age tweeted a video of a demonstrator carrying a mock gallows with three nooses hanging from it, while the newspaper showed a protester carrying a banner picturing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews with a Hitler moustache and the hashtag #DictatorDan.
“We’re being governed by insane medical bureaucrats,” Craig Kelly, former Liberal Party member of parliament and now the leader of United Australia Party, told the rally, media reported.
The Age said some protesters called for violence against politicians but did not offer specifics.
An Australian singer Claire Woodley dedicated a song to “victims of satanic ritual abuse” – a rhetoric common in the QAnon conspiracy theory about abducting children for satanic rites.
Andrews’ office and protest organizers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Australia has seen frequent, occasionally violent, anti-vaccine rallies in recent months, though the movement remains small, with polls showing nationwide opposition in the single digits.
Victoria, the second-most populous state with a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, has an 87% vaccination rate and has endured six COVID-19 lockdowns totaling nearly nine months.
There were 1,221 new infections reported on Saturday in Victoria and four deaths, and 250 daily cases in New South Wales.
Despite Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, the national tally of just under 190,000 infections and 1,591 deaths is far lower than that of many developed nations.
Neighboring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates, reported 175 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 8,121. There have been 33 deaths in total.
In major cities across New Zealand, several antigovernmental protests against COVID-19 measures took place, with people driving slowly on main roads to cause traffic congestion.
“Crass and stupid but what else would you expect!” Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said in a message on his Facebook page.