13 February 2022

Ten thousand 'freedom' protesters swarm Parliament House lawns: Photos/video

| James Coleman
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ACT Police estimate up to 10,000 protesters were present today. Photo: James Coleman.

An estimated 10,000 protesters have swarmed the lawns of Parliament House today, protesting COVID-19 vaccinations and mask mandates.

It was a massive crowd but well short of the “one million Aussies” one of the leaders of the ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’, former Qantas pilot Graham Hood, called for on Facebook yesterday.

“Let’s face it – we’re going to encompass the whole ground,” he told more than 42,000 viewers during a Facebook live video.

READ ALSO Lifeline shuts Bookfair amid deteriorating situation at EPIC

Commonwealth Avenue, parts of Northbourne Avenue, and several adjacent roads were closed as the crowd made its way over the bridge and up to Parliament House today.

The sound of truck horns, motorcycle engines, speeches, and cheering could be heard from across the lake.

Together with resources from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), ACT Policing had a “significant presence” at the protest today.

“The crowd was generally well behaved,” a spokesperson said.

“Three people were arrested by police. One man was charged with multiple offences after he drove his truck through a roadblock and two men were taken into custody for breaching the peace.”

The Convoy arrived in Canberra on 31 January as a meagre number of people protesting vaccination and mask mandates. Since then, protest activity has exploded to impact travel and businesses across the ACT, with marches and rallies continuing to take place throughout the National Triangle and beyond.

ACT Policing suspected protest activity had peaked with a rally on the lawns of Parliament House on Tuesday, 8 February, for the first sitting day of Parliament but today’s numbers were well in excess of that.

Messages are mixed, with some division occurring after the assumed leaders of the group submitted a letter of eight demands to the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and Speaker of the House on Tuesday that – if met – would “move towards resolution”.

READ ALSO Chief Minister says some ‘freedom’ protestors ‘effectively stalking Canberrans … aggressively flouting the law’

“I want the borders open, I want the kids protected, I want the mandates dropped, I want our jobs back, and when all that dust settles there needs to be an investigation into how this came about, because it’s been a shocker,” Mr Hood said today.

Some were waving “Trump” flags, others called out “Sack them all”, while some went so far as to call for a public execution of politicians.

In a video posted to social media on Thursday night, protestors threatened to target the AIS mass vaccination clinic on Saturday, the same day the AIS planned a “Superhero Day” to encourage five to 11-year-olds to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

ACT Policing report no protest activity at AIS.

READ ALSO Canberra becomes protest central as Parliament sits for first time this year

The Convoy is currently camped at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC), but has been asked by management and police to vacate by Sunday evening as set up commences for the Royal Canberra Show.

Last night, as waves of cars and trucks arrived in readiness for today’s event, protesters knocked over the fence separating their camp from where the annual Lifeline Bookfair was set up. Police were called to the scene and continue to monitor the situation.

Lifeline initially cancelled the charity fundraiser for the day, but announced earlier this afternoon that the entire event had been cancelled and volunteers had begun packing up at EPIC.

READ ALSO Protesters should not take capital’s tolerance and hospitality for granted

In response, the ACT Government has announced it will make a $25,000 donation to support Lifeline Canberra following the disruption of their bookfair.

“Lifeline Canberra, through its dedicated volunteers, has not only supported this community through two of the most challenging years in our history but also for the last 50 years,” a spokesperson said.

Freedom To Canberra Convoy protest march to APH. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

“It is incredibly frustrating that one of the organisation’s most significant fundraising activities has been impacted in this way.”

Canberrans have also stepped up, donating directly to Lifeline Canberra to help address the shortfall

The government is also encouraging Canberrans to support the producers and market stallholders from the Capital Region Farmers Market who are operating from other venues this weekend due to the disruption at EPIC.

It’s understood much of the Convoy is planning to relocate to Queanbeyan Showgrounds.

 

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Very proud of the Australians that marched last weekend. It shows the Australian spirit has not been crushed yet.

Who is trying to crush the Australian spirit. You?

Freedom to spread the virus. Science has eradicated many diseases and science will continue.

Bruce Lawson6:14 pm 13 Feb 22

lol these idiots waved Trump flag? Trump announced Project Warp Speed, which makes COVID vaccine happened so quickly. Idiots don’t even know what they are on about.

SmirkingNick3:15 pm 13 Feb 22

The selectively pearl-clutching sneering elitists of the left have desperately attempted to mischaracterise and demonise these protesters. How disappointing it must be that the protesters have been so well-behaved. Their worst crime? Dismantling a fence to accommodate protester numbers! Meanwhile, the hyperventilating commentariat is desperately trying to present an unecessarily cancelled book fair as some kind of humanitarian disaster.

Malcolm Street5:57 pm 13 Feb 22

“Their worst crime? Dismantling a fence to accommodate protester numbers! “

It’s called vandalism. Destruction of property. Hint – if there were a genuine accommodation problems it might have been polite to ask the EPIC staff first.

“an unecessarily cancelled book fair”

First, there’s two “n”s in “unnecessary”. Why is it that fringe loons have such problems with language?

Secondly, the book fair was cancelled because the fence your protesters “dismantled” (ie trashed) was the outer periphery of the book fair site and after that the organisers could not guarantee security. This came after attendees were harassed by your friends earlier on Saturday.

Note, it is not just any ordinary book fair. It is one of Canberra’s biggest charity events. Thanks for wrecking it and hence reducing funds for suicide prevention.

Well behaved?

LOL.

You might have a point if not for the week long harassment, blocking roads, abuse of locals as well as the attacks on local businesses.

Yes I agree, SOME of the protesters were legitimately protesting while others were using it to hide their belligerent behaviour. Disrupting community activities for their own means is hardly helpful to their cause. Tell you what, next time you have a bbq lets invite a few idiots over to make ***** of themselves, throw food and empty bottles around and abuse the other attendees…I wonder how supportive you would be. I would write more but I am too busy clutching my pearls…..and being elite (non-party aligned)

10,000, really? I drove past on my way to work and was shocked at the numbers. Check out this footage from ‘Victoria by Drone’ on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocULvVMeFm4&ab_channel=VictoriabyDrone
For my own curiosity I went onto Mapchecking – crowd size estimates. My guess is over 150,000.

That footage is from a union protest a while back, they stole the footage !

Someonesmother12:46 pm 13 Feb 22

I would have said lucky to have 5-6k. Over estimating the crowd just encourages them after two weeks of thuggery, intimidation and aggressive behaviour towards locals.

Yeah, that completely wrong.

150000 people would be around 1/3 of the total population of Canberra.

The crowd yesterday was not remotely close to that. 20000 at best, although it’s understandable why the organisers keep trying to exagerrate their numbers and reach.

The Union protest a while back??? I drove through the crowd yesterday, very timidly, and can assure you that the footage on that drone is from yesterday. My car was the third last to pass over Commonwealth bridge heading towards civic. Anyway I’m not here to argue, or support what happened yesterday, just here to point out that the crowd was much bigger than what was reported.

I was swarmed by the crowd in my car heading toward civic, one of the last cars to pass over commonwealth bridge on that drone footage. I have ACT plates on my car and received nothing but smiling faces and thumbs up. I’m sorry if you have suffered from the bad behaviour of the protesters, but I did not experience that while “in the thick of it”.

OK, not here to argue. Half of Commonwealth bridge holds 20,000 people according the the crowd estimator link I provided above. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating what took place, but there were a lot more people there than reported.

“Half of Commonwealth bridge holds 20,000 people…”
I looked at the footage, stopping it from time to time to examine crowd density. I estimate one or two per square metre with the latter being generous, meaning 5,000 to 10,000 at most on the bridge and pretty thin outside that area. Your estimate of 20,000 assumes 4 people / sq m, a situation in which you do not stroll along with space around you. Then you magically multiply that by 7.5 where density and total people outside the bridge area is far lower, an obviously incorrect multiplier in the estimate.
A total crowd of about 10,000 as estimated looks about right. Thank you for providing the data to confirm it.
Not being here to argue does not license you to be here to offer nonsense.

Not in Canberra

Capital Retro11:22 am 18 Feb 22

But they weren’t people from Canberra. That is clearly conveyed (one would think) by the “Convoy to Canberra” theme.

Shane Spellman7:41 am 13 Feb 22

Walking down Northbourne avenue, in the space of 10 minutes, friend and i were harassed at least four identifiable times because we were wearing masks. My response: freedom over fear

Go home you idiots… Also get Vaxed and get over it. Or did you not get all your jabs as a kid growing up? MMR? etc.

Yeah Tim, they probably did eventually get their vaccine as kids but only after throwing a humongous tanty, screaming and wailing all the way back from the vaccine clinic so Daddy or Mummy had to buy them a big ice cream to shut them up. Now they get to throw a humongous tanty on Facebook.

Lifeline’s Book Fair was cancelled due the presence and activity of the protesters. It should be the protesters making good Lifeline’s losses, NOT the ACT tax payer.

Couldn’t agree more.

I went along to it because in Canberra we should not have closed minds and should know what our fellow citizens are saying in such numbers. Walk in their shoes to understand their experiences. Speakers had a range of views, some moderate, some not so. What struck me was the camaraderie, strong indigenous presence, range of ages and backgrounds and the flags from different countries. Basically, people are fed up with intrusive government mandates and want their lives back. If 10,000 came it indicates a much wider level of community anger that politicians ignore at their peril.
Favourite poster: “Our rug rats and not your lab rats.”

SigmaOctantis8:00 am 13 Feb 22

Maybe you can explain to all of us closed minded people what it is that they want?

Capital Retro3:09 pm 13 Feb 22

Some want their jobs back. I know that not having a “job” is an alien concept for most Canberra public servants.

SmirkingNick3:36 pm 13 Feb 22

I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that they want a lifting of government COVID restrictions (on movement, mask-wearing, venue capacity etc.) and protection from employment discrimination and other forms of discrimination based on vaccination status.

Why are we so worried about job losses? Those that do were probably going to lose their job eventually anyway.

SigmaOctantis9:31 pm 13 Feb 22

Sure the APS gives you a job for life. Sure it pays well. But it comes at massive cost. As it operates outside the rules of society it tends to cost you your soul, so I wouldn’t be so quick to be so jealous of public servants.

Capital Retro10:47 pm 13 Feb 22

Nothing to do with jealously – for a start most of the protesters don’t live in Canberra and accordingly would have little chance of becoming a public servant – but a lot of them have risked all they own by being self-employed.

The only “risk” any Canberra public servants take is negatively gearing an investment home or ten, spending a lot of their taxpayer funded time managing their property portfolios.

Imagine being as deluded as CR is, to think that is the typical experience of your average public servant.

Or to not know that the majority of the public service don’t work in Canberra.

Although it is funny to see people whinge about public servants having it “easy” but then not be willing to recognise that anyone could apply for such “easy” jobs.

Who has the closed minds?

Very generous of the ACT Government to donate $25000 to Lifeline. Would that be the $25000 that the protesters paid to stay at EPIC on the weekend when the ACT Government knew there was to be a Farmers Market and the Lifeline bookfair? Lifeline raises a major portion of the funding needed to keep their local crisis support service running. I am sure the $25000 will go a long way to keeping their Crisis Support Line operating. Yeah right.
Move along quickly protesters we have a Canberra Show to organise which generates opportunities for the local community (and undoubtedly some revenue for the ACT Government in the form of fees and charges through EPIC). Pity about the local producers and the Canberra bibliophiles. Better luck next time. I think Lifeline Canberra (given what it has had to do over the last two years) needs a lot more than the ‘apology’ money offered by the ACT Government.

I was a protester at the Japanese Embassy back in 1982 against woodchip exports to Japan from Australian native forests. Guess what? Still happening. Nothing changed. The current Canberra protest was a waste of a nice day. For all the protester numbers and noise it achieved nothing. Just put a lot of people offside.

Let’s keep some perspective. 250,000 marched for reconciliation back in 2000. The anti vaxers are more like a cult

Capital Retro4:45 pm 12 Feb 22

That 250,000 was over Sydney Harbour Bridge, kate11.

They are a cult, just like Trump supporters.

Australia has no bill of rights. Everything can be taken from us.

First you need a Bill of Responsibilities then u can think about a Bill of Rights

Doesn’t matter what you think of these protestors, there’s no denying this is the largest ever protest rally in our country’s history and we cannot ignore its significance.

Capital Retro4:36 pm 12 Feb 22

They used to be called the “silent majority”, Sam

These are the people that the pollsters never contact.

The “silent majority” have gone and got vaccinated, close to 100%, this is a very small majority of snivelling whingers who are too scaredy cat to have a little needle…..awww diddums.

Malcolm Street5:28 pm 12 Feb 22

Really?

For a start, way back in 1969 200,000 people nationwide took part in the first Vietnam Moratorium, including 70,000 in Melbourne.

I took part in an anti-uranium mining demonstration in Sydney in the late ’70s that attracted 15,000.

If you’re right, then I’d be expecting Prime Minister Pauline in a few months then…

Largest ever protest rally?

LOL, not even remotely close.

Although the organisers also can’t count so it’s hardly surprising.

Largest ever protest rally? It’s not even close.
The walk for reconciliation saw 250,000 walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It’s not even the biggest protest rally in Canberra.
In 1985 45,000 farmers marched on parliament house protesting tax increases.

But, as with everything about this antivaxxer mob, don’t let the facts get in the way.

Not the largest in the history of things but I think probably the largest weekend ASIO has had in a while- gathering all of the licence plate numbers and cctv intel. Lots of OT for employees of the org.

astro2 5:26 pm 12 Feb 22
The “silent majority” have gone and got vaccinated, close to 100%, this is a very small majority of snivelling whingers

+1

Someonesmother12:49 pm 13 Feb 22

No, it is not the biggest rally protest ever in Australia’s history. Stop talking up a minority who want to force their way of life and bizarre conspiracy theories on the rest of Australia. They have no idea what it is they want, oh apart from banning plexiglass screens. 🙂

Except that this is multiple protest rallys rolled up to make everyone’s numbers look larger. Wake up – this is the usual whinging minority – multiple minorities.

Largest ever protest rally…. hahaha stop smoking (or maybe start smoking) whatever it is your on, because it wasn’t even close.

I reckon the number was a bit bigger then 10K – maybe 15K or 20K pushing it, but biggest protest rally in Australia’s history…. please….

limestonecowboy10:05 pm 17 Feb 22

10 thousand equates to 0. 0.04% of the population so even if the most exaggerated claim is correct 100 thousand it is 0.4% so basically unrepresentative swill.

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