There are dozens of police members on foot and on bikes at the rally, as well as in vehicles.
Protester Walter, who did not want to use his last name, was arrested, given a fine and told to move on.
The Orbost man said the $1600 fine was “no big deal” as he had achieved what he came to Melbourne to do today – to “spread the message”.
“The police just want to intimidate you and scare you,” he said.
“We have a right to visit our mothers, a right to protest,” he said.
Walter said he was sceptical of the dangers of coronavirus.
Other protesters raised a host of issues: their belief in the dangers of 5G telecommunications technology, an alleged conspiracy between governments and media outlets and a loss of civic freedoms during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some protesters were young families with children, including toddlers and infants.
Jo, a 42-year-old mother of two who didn’t want to use her surname, went to the protest with her infant daughter.
She said she had no safety concerns about bringing her baby to the protest and said she felt compelled to come as government lockdown measures had undermined freedom.
“People feel like their freedoms are being taken away,” she said. “We haven’t had a choice in any of this.”
She said she didn’t want to be labelled as anti-science for her scepticism of a coronavirus vaccine, 5G towers and the deadlines of COVID-19.
“We are anti-fake-science,” she said.”You have the right to have choice over your own body.”
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the protesters were in breach of the stay-at-home directive and could be fined.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that people would be protesting or seeking to suggest we don’t have a pandemic,” she said.
She said the protesters only needed to turn on the news to see what was happening in the United States, the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe.
“Those people know that this pandemic is not fake news. We’ve had 18 Victorians lose their lives as a result of COVID-19. I know that there are many people who are feeling very sad today because they don’t have their mothers or their grandmothers with them whose lives were lost as a result of this virus.
“That’s incredibly disappointing that some individuals do not understand that these restrictions have been put in place to keep them safe, to keep their families safe and the whole of Victoria safe.”
A Victoria Police spokesman had earlier warned that police had the power to issue penalty notices to people breaking social distancing laws if they turned up in groups.
“While Victoria Police respects the public’s right to protest, these are extraordinary times and the health and safety of every Victorian needs to be our number one priority at this time,” he said.
“We have made it very clear that if a planned protest was to proceed, it would be in direct contravention of the Chief Health Officer’s current directives.
“Police will have a highly visible presence at each event and if people do attend, we will have no hesitation in moving them on and issuing individual penalty notice of $1,652 each where appropriate.”
On Friday Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy described those intending to protest this weekend as “pretty selfish”.
“This is not the time for people to push the boundaries on these matters,” she told reporters at a briefing. “It’s a pretty self-indulgent thing for a group of people to do.”
Rachael Dexter is a journalist & audio video producer at The Age.