Police use pepper spray against anti-vaxxers
Australian police clashed with anti-vaccination protesters on Wednesday afternoon, using pepper spray and arresting three people while trying to move participants illegally camped in front of the National Library in Canberra.
According to ACT Policing, one woman was charged with trying to assault a police officer, and two men who allegedly interfered with the woman’s arrest were charged with obstructing police.
The clashes began as the police officers moved through the protesters’ camp, located on the Patrick White Lawns outside the National Library of Australia in Canberra’s parliamentary zone, distributing written notices informing the people they were camping illegally and would be fined if they chose to remain.
The conflict between the police and the protesters lasted about an hour before the officers left. In footage posted on social media, some protesters can be heard yelling “You serve us” at law enforcement.
ACT Ambulance Service was called to the scene and treated two people for minor injuries. No one was taken to hospital.
Moments after ‘Freedom Campers’ were pepper-sprayed, two officers were caught clinking OC cans.For your health, obviously. pic.twitter.com/T3SKQ2Srm0— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) February 2, 2022
The police spokesman acknowledged “the rights of people to peacefully protest” but said officers had to deal with legal issues, such as illegal parking and camping.
The National Capital Authority said it had turned to the Australian Federal Police and ACT Policing to “take necessary action to enforce the laws and remove tents, camping infrastructure and vehicles from the site,” as cited by the Canberra Times.
Unauthorized camping is illegal in the parliamentary zone and in NCA-managed territory. For this reason, organizers of upcoming events are seeking official permits to set up temporary facilities in the Australian capital.
Wednesday was the third day of the anti-vaccination campaign called ‘Convoy to Canberra’, inspired by the Canadian truck driver protests, with participants speaking out against mandatory Covid-19 vaccination. The campaign included a march in front of Parliament House on Monday and a demonstration outside the National Press Club during Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people across Australia are reported to have arrived at the capital to protest. The official ‘Convoy to Canberra’ Facebook page has gathered almost 170,000 followers since its creation on January 25.