Photo by Nicolas Zoumboulis
Hundreds gathered at rallies across Australia on Saturday to protest against 5G and vaccinations.
The “Wake Up Australia – Millions March” protests were organised through Facebook events that were eventually taken down, but not before screenshots were circulated among conspiracy groups.
A few hundred protestors gathered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne at 12pm and many held placards that claimed COVID-19 is a hoax, and vaccinations contain harmful ingredients.
Although the protest was promoted online as an anti-vaccine rally, it was an unorganised mass of competing conspiracy theories and grievances against COVID-19 directions.
Victoria Police ensured that protestors observed social distancing rules and told some huddled people to spread out.
Fanos Panayides, who was arrested while speaking at the previous protest held outside Parliament House on May 10 was in attendance, but he kept a relatively low profile.
It was only after police reminded protestors to obey social distancing rules that Panayides urged people to follow him on a walk away from the main group.
Panayides livestreamed the event to his Facebook group which has over 56,000 members and said it was “not a very successful event”.
“Congregating like this isn’t gonna work anymore, you need to start smashing letters into every single public office you can find,” Panayides said.
Video by Nicolas Zoumboulis
Coronavirus deniers, Anti-5G protestors, sovereign citizens and other fringe conspiracy theorists lingered in the main protest area.
Many protestors carried placards that said, “Arrest Bill Gates” and yelled theories that Gates had planned COVID-19.
One protestor claimed to have inside knowledge from a CIA operative who told him Gates planned to insert microchips in vaccines.
Some wanted to protest against the mandatory vaccination of aged care workers, and visitors of aged care facilities.
“I have a mother in aged care and they’re saying unless I have a flu vaccination I can’t go and see her, it’s about the safety of the vaccinations in general.”
Protestors wore homemade t-shirts that said, “Not Anti-Vax, but Pro-Choice” and “'pro-safe vac”, a term that incorrectly suggests some vaccines are unsafe.
It’s a term that chef Pete Evans, who is an advocate of alternative medicine, has popularised in the anti-vaccination community.
Pete Evans has been sharing COVID-19 conspiracy theories on his social media accounts. Photo by Nicolas Zoumboulis.
Anti-vaxxers chanted "my body, my choice" and held rainbow coloured signs covered with similar statements about freedom.
A protestor said, “I think there is a real virus, but I feel there are cures for it in natural medicine”.
After an hour the protest had broken up as competing groups dispersed in the gardens to get their own individual messages heard.
One group of protestors claimed the entire COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax, a protestor said, “I just don’t believe this COVID virus is as bad as people have said”.
The protestor added, “We don’t even know anyone who has COVID-19, and if you’ve got doctors and nurses who have got no work to do, how real can it be?”
When asked where these doctors and nurses were, the protestor said, “I’m not going to say, but it’s all over Victoria and all over the world”.
There was an incredibly strong anti-press sentiment and most vocal protestors claimed their theories were silenced by social media or distorted by “Fake news media”.
The only consistent agreement among the protestors was that the mainstream news was not a trustworthy source of information.
A protestor concerned with social distancing rules said, “Fake media puts out the message and they’ll believe it.”
The page behind the event, MMAMV Australia, organised identical events in each state.