There has been chaos in the heart of Sydney as anti-lockdown protesters, many maskless, took to the streets to protest COVID-19 restrictions, sparking police clashes and 57 arrests.
Thousands walked through Sydney's inner-city, despite the city being in lockdown. Some of the protesters were carrying placards with anti-vaccination messages. Many appeared not to be wearing masks.
Police confirmed 57 people have been arrested and charged at the Sydney protest, which was in breach of public health orders. More than 90 infringements have been issued.
Police Minister David Elliott said a strike force of 22 detectives had been set up to track down 3500 "very selfish boofheads". He also said anyone who attended the protest to get tested for COVID-19.
Another rally was held in Melbourne and a third in Brisbane.
At the Melbourne rally, police officers formed a blockade at the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St.
Officers surrounded the protest group and began detaining those who were refusing the leave the area.
In Sydney protesters met at Victoria Park on the edge of the CBD, then, led by police on horses, marched to Town Hall.
There was no social distancing and few face masks.
A man dancing with batons lit on fire was sprayed with a fire extinguisher before being arrested.
Protesters climbed onto shop awnings, what appeared to be an Australian flag was burnt and anti-Government messages were chanted as police tried to move the crowd on.
NSW Police issued a statement confirming the arrests.
"Officers from across Central Metropolitan Region, assisted by specialist resources, were deployed," the statement reads.
"So far during the operation, a number of people have been arrested. As attendees disperse, movement out of the city will be facilitated down George Street."
Police said trains were still operating, but some station entrances are blocked.
Once the crowd made its way back at Victoria Park, police warned anyone who did not leave would be issued with a $1000 fine and began making arrests.
Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said he was "very concerned" people were not wearing masks and physically distancing.
"When that happens, there is the risk that we'll get spread of COVID-19," Professor Kidd said.
"This is even more imperative during this outbreak with the Delta variant than it was during the times last year when we saw similar protests.
"This puts people's lives at risk."
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said ahead of the event, a lockdown protest being held in Sydney could be "disastrous."
"I think it's not really the time for people to come together closely, to exercise somewhat they would think was their democratic right and it may well be," he said.
"New South Wales Police are in a position where they will try and work with the organisers and the specific group leaders to make sure that they comply with the public health orders, and in fact we don't get a situation where we end up with a spreading event in Sydney which would, of course, be disastrous."
Meanwhile, almost 250 people have been fined for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules over the past 24 hours in NSW.
Most of the fines handed out yesterday were for people blatantly disobeying the rules by having parties at home.
Police were called to a party at Pyrmont where eight people were fined $1000.
Six people were fined at a birthday party at Riverwood in the city's South.
People are not supposed to have anybody to their home at all.
At Belmont near Newcastle - where five people are allowed to a home - 10 people were fined for being at a party.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys called the party hosts and guests "highly irresponsible."
"People are actually planning these events and inviting people around. They know it is outside the public health order," he said.
However, NSW Health Minister Hazzard dismissed raising fines to try and deter people, saying officials are working with multi-cultural communities to get the messages out.
"It is one of the joys of this nation that we are a proud multicultural nation, but sometimes people who have come from overseas perhaps have suffered at the hands of other governments and perhaps getting the messages through is challenging," he said.
"So, we need to find ways to keep working at that and get the messages through."
"We really need our community, particularly in southwestern and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home.
"And don't intermingle with family members from other households."
Plus, 18 people who were among those who gathered in relation to a family "tragedy" in Sydney's Pendle Hill have now been diagnosed with the virus.
It's not known if they were also fined.