There have been bizarre scenes in Canberra, with a convoy of anti-vaxxers from across Australia descending on the lawns of Parliament House with a vague mission to take down the government.
The protest positioned itself as an Australian iteration of the so-called Freedom Convoy of anti-vaxxer truck drivers that has caused gridlock across Canada.
However, unlike the Canadian convoy, there was hardly a truck in sight in Canberra on Monday.
The protesters were initially met with resistance from police, but eventually many of the vehicles made it onto the lawn.
On foot, they approached Parliament House chanting “freedom” and demanding someone come out to address them.
“[The government] gave you money, they told you ‘we love you, we care about you’ and then they come for your kid,” veteran anti-vax protester Romeo Georges told the crowd of hundreds in Canberra.
The instigator of the convoy was Western Australian doomsday prepper Jim Greer, who has raised more than $150,000 to fund the protest in four days.
Mr Greer, a self-described “survivalist”, made headlines at the start of the pandemic for his contingency plan, which involved living in an eight-tonne truck and starting an orchard from his own personal seed bank of more than 2000 specimens.
After Mr Greer kicked off the protest last Wednesday, other leading figures in anti-vax, anti-lockdown and sovereign citizen circles coalesced around him and the momentum he created.
Of the leading figures, most are not truck drivers. One, Sam Harder, worked as a truck driver some years ago.
When it became clear that mainstream truck driver groups were not on board with the protest, some of the instigators rebranded the movement.
“We’re not a Canada – we’re going to have a lot of trucks, but we’ve got a lot of people with caravans and families and four-wheel drives,” anti-lockdown organiser David Graham, who also goes by Kanga Guru, said while livestreaming from his house boat on Saturday.
“Don’t expect to see big convoys of trucks – we may, I think we’re going to have a fair few. But this is a people thing, and the people don’t all drive trucks.”
At the protest on Monday, he called for Parliament House to be “burnt down.”
Anti-vaxxer MP Craig Kelly, who leads Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, was due to speak at the protest.
However, many of the leading figures had told attendees not to bring any signs or clothes from any political parties.
“Craig Kelly giving a speech is exceedingly controversial,” far-right researcher Dr Kaz Ross said.
“Because a lot of these people are going ‘F–k you, Clive Palmer, for parasitising off our movement’.”
Nevertheless, one truck driver was spotted waving a yellow United Australia Party t-shirt and a Serbian flag.
ACT Policing said it had anticipated convoys would enter Canberra from all directions via the Federal, Barton and Monaro highways.
“The protest will be monitored by police and some impact on local traffic may occur,” a police spokesperson told TND.
“Drivers are asked to avoid the area if possible.”
Some vehicles were also caught up in traffic accidents en route to Canberra. In NSW, at least three vehicles were involved in a pile-up near Mooney Mooney.
Other protests have emerged across the country to coincide with the convoy.
In Sydney, a cluster of sovereign citizens assembled outside Surry Hills Police Station. A speaker informed police that they planned to arrest some of NSW’s top politicians, justifying their intentions with pseudo-legalese.
There was a similar protest in Perth, with some attendees calling themselves “Common Law Sheriffs” and demanding WA Police arrest Premier Mark McGowan.