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Protester 'punches police horse in face' during Sydney anti-lockdown march
24 July 2021, 09:04 | Updated: 25 July 2021, 06:58
An anti-lockdown protester appeared to punch a police horse in the face as demonstrators marched against coronavirus restrictions in Sydney.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Australia's largest city to protest ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, with similar scenes taking place in Melbourne.
Unmasked demonstrators marched through the two cities on Saturday carrying signs calling for "freedom" and "the truth".
It comes as the country deals with a rise in coronavirus infections, forcing state governments to introduce emergency lockdown measures.
In Sydney, people walked from Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district (CBD), with pockets of the crowd clashing with officers.
Mounted police and riot squads responded to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity, with a number of arrests being made.
Pictures show one man - wearing a T-shirt reading 'Free speech is more important than your feelings - appearing to punch a police horse in the face.
Another, shared by New South Wales (NSW) Police Force, shows an officer covered in a black substance.
NSW Police said that although it recognises and supports the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, the protest was a "breach of the current Covid-19 Public Health Orders".
A force statement said: "The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community."
It comes as cases in the state reached another record, with 163 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours.
Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks, with residents only allowed to leave home if they have a reasonable excuse.
State health minister Brad Hazzard said: "We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people's rights to protest... but at the present time we've got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that's okay to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration."
In Melbourne, thousands of unmasked anti-lockdown protesters gathered downtown chanting "freedom", with some lighting flares as they gathered outside Victoria state's Parliament House.
Demonstrators held banners, including one that read: "This is not about a virus it's about total government control of the people."
A car protest rally was planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity. However, bad weather and low numbers have meant the demonstration may not go ahead.
By Friday, 15.4 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over had received both coronavirus jabs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "We've turned the corner, we've got it sorted. We're hitting the marks that we need to make, a million doses a week are now being delivered.
"We are well on our way to where we want to be by the end of the year and potentially sooner than that."
The federal government said it will send thousands of extra Pfizer doses to Sydney while adults there are also being urged to "strongly consider" AstraZeneca's drug due to a shortage of Pfizer shots.