Thousands of protesters marched shoulder-to-shoulder in the CBD on Saturday despite NSW recording its highest number of daily infections since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
Shocking photographs showed the brazen marchers huddled together as they walked down major road Broadway towards the city centre, holding signs and halting traffic.
“What we saw today were 3500 very selfish boofheads,” Mr Elliott said. “People who thought the law did not apply to them.”
He said a task force of 22 detectives had been assembled to pore over CCTV, bodycam and social media footage in a bid to identify and charge every last protester.
“When we start identifying them, I reckon their own community is going to be pretty cranky with them as well,” Mr Elliott said.
He added sanctions may be “more significant” than the $1000 fine usually doled out for public health order infractions.
The minister also told protesters to go and get tested, saying their “selfish, inappropriate” behaviour could lengthen the city’s hard lockdown.
“You’ve done something bad today,” Mr Elliott said. “Do something good tomorrow, go and have a test and self-isolate.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the protesters had shown “utter contempt” for their fellow citizens doing it tough.
“I am utterly disgusted by the illegal protestors in the city today whose selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us,” she said in a statement on Saturday evening.
Officers on horseback followed the protesters, many of them eschewing face masks, as they made their way towards Town Hall.
Police used pepper spray on the chaotic crowd and had made 57 arrests and handed out 90 fines by 4.30pm Saturday.
In a statement earlier on Saturday, NSW Police said it “recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, today’s protest is in breach of the current COVID-19 Public Health Orders,” it read.
“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”
St James and Museum railway stations were forced to close due to the protests.
The rally is one of about nine held across the country as anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters declared a “worldwide rally for freedom” on Saturday afternoon.
In Melbourne, police acted before the protest even took place with officers arresting multiple people for not wearing a mask and failing to show their ID.
Protesters gathered about 12pm at Flinders Street Station, before walking up Swanston Street towards Parliament House.
About 5000 people took to the streets, chanting, waving flags and halting trams and traffic.
Victoria Police said on Saturday evening that six people had been arrested and charged with offences including assaulting an emergency worker, possessing a drug of dependence and refusing to state their name and address.
The police statement said 67 people would be fined for failing to comply with a directive to remain within 5km of their home, six for not wearing a mask and three for traffic offences.
More fines are expected to be issued in the coming days, police said.
Before the protests had started, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard labelled them as “silly”.
“We live in a democracy and I am certainly one who supports people’s right to protest, but I actually think it is really silly,” he said.
“At present we’ve got cases through the roof and we have people thinking it’s okay to get out there and possibly be close to each other.”
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said he was “beyond disappointed” at the protests and urged people to rethink their motives to protest amid a global pandemic.
“Please be on the side of humanity, not the side of the virus,” he said.