Anti-lockdown protesters decided to hit the streets of Melbourne again today, despite [checks notes] Stage 4 lockdowns being lifted.

According to encrypted messages seen by News Corp, the protesters won’t stop until “Dan Andrews is gone”.

“Daniel Andrews presided over the worst response to the pandemic of any state leader by an extraordinary margin,” the message reportedly read.

“We will not forget. Of all the Australian states and territories, Victoria endured the harshest and longest lockdowns.”

According to reports from the ground, about 300 people descended on State Parliament on Spring St, before moving towards the city. Dozens have reportedly been arrested, but we won’t know exact numbers from Victoria Police until later on Tuesday.

Nine News reports protesters were pinned to the ground, handcuffed, and led away by cops.

According to the Herald Sun, cops deployed pepper spray at protesters, with one protester throwing a coffee cup at police.

Herald Sun reporter Brianna Travers said Victoria Police officers had formed a “ring of steel” around protesters, preventing them from leaving the Spring St and Bourke St intersection.

“The public order response team are arresting protesters one by one,” Travers tweeted.

“They are not mucking around today.”

Victoria officially moved to the Third Step of restrictions last week, lifting the rules on when Melburnians were allowed to leave home (and expanding the 5km rule to 25km).

Outdoor gatherings are limited to up to 10 people from two houses, with masks still mandatory when leaving the house.

It was a bloody rough run for Melbourne, but it worked: case numbers dropped from highs of more than 700 new cases per day to zero, in a little over two months. On Tuesday, it recorded the fourth day of no new cases in a row – the first time since March.

The Melbourne Cup protest is the first protest since Andrews lifted Melbourne’s lockdown.

New Health Minister Martin Foley – who replaced Jenny Mikakos when she resigned over the hotel quarantine inquiry – said keeping Victoria safe was more important than anyone’s right to protest.

“People who want to get around the rules, in smart-aleck approaches, are just asking for trouble,” he told media on Monday.

“Don’t protest. Now is not the time to protest. Keep safe, follow the rules and keep us open.”

Victoria Police, on the other hand, said that “everyone has a right to protest peacefully”, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Chief Health Officer’s directions or impact the rest of the community.

“Anyone coming into the city in blatant breach of the directions, or looking to disrupt others, create conflict and incite violence can expect a very firm response from police,” a spokesperson said.

Image: Nine News