As Canberra goes into a new week, anti-vaccine protesters demanding an end to COVID-19 mandates and the resignation of parliament have no plans to slow down.
As part of a renewed push to legitimise their grievances and overthrow the government, the group has called for 5 million supporters to converge on Canberra in the coming weeks. This comes after crowds swelled from hundreds, part of a 'Millions Against Mandatory Vaccination' protest, to at least 1000 on Saturday.
While the protesters' plans for the week ahead are unclear, The Canberra Times understands more people are set to arrive over the next few days with intentions to cause as many disruptions as possible across the capital.
It is understood the group intends to stay in Canberra until at least Tuesday, February 8, when Federal Parliament returns for its first sitting week of the year.
On Saturday, a sea of flags could be seen on the lawns of Parliament House as the group gathered for its largest rally yet. The crowd travelled from Old Parliament House after driving a convoy and marching from Glebe Park.
United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly and Liberal National MP George Christensen, who have regularly spouted anti-vaccine conspiracies online, were present at the rally ahead of coming parliamentary sitting fortnight.
Mr Christensen and Liberal senator Gerard Rennick, who threatened to block his own government's legislation over vaccine mandates, were named as politicians likely to address the crowd over the next few days.
Senator Rennick did not reply to The Canberra Times when asked about his intentions on Friday evening. The crowd was also told 5 million protesters would need to descend on Canberra within weeks to overthrow the government.
During the protest a truck driver jackknifed his vehicle on the State Circle to stop traffic while protesters broke past a single police officer to get a closer. Police cleared the area and allowed the truck driver to leave.
The movement is incredibly broad and includes anti-vaxxers, sovereign citizens, Indigenous rights activists and evangelical Christians. But the crowd has two common demands: an end to vaccine mandates; and the resignation of Australian political leaders.
While extreme right wing groups were present, including The Proud Boys who were masked to hide their identities, they did not make up the majority.
Former Qantas pilot Graham Hood, a spokesperson for the anti-vaccination movement who has been accused of spreading misinformation, addressed the crowd, claiming the government had no legal authority over the country.
"If they're not going to be heard in there [Parliament House], they're coming out to be heard by you. That's gonna put it right up the others who are sitting in the swill," he said.
While there was strong police presence at the protest, the situation remained peaceful. Via a microphone and platform set up outside Parliament House, leaders urged crowds to respect the police and not approach the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
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