Police have arrested over 200 people who attended the construction protests in Melbourne today, with a spokesperson saying three officers were injured.
For the third day in a row, protesters flooded the streets of Melbourne to oppose the Victorian government’s vaccine mandate and shut-down of the construction industry. The protesters were a mix of genuinely frustrated tradies, anti-vaxxers, and potentially far-right extremists.
The crowd was smaller and largely more peaceful than the last two days of Melbourne’s protests, with roughly 300-400 attendees — compared to the thousands that rioted yesterday.
After small groups made their way across Melbourne’s CBD, protesters congregated at the Shrine of Memorial off St Kilda, where police closed in, arresting and pepper-spraying demonstrators.
— erin pearson (@epearson_3) September 22, 2021
“We’re really disappointed that people are still coming into the city in these circumstances,” Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said in a press conference.
“My observation is that it was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the Shrine, which is such a hallowed ground in this great city.”
“Our message simply is don’t come into the city,” Guenther said.
“We don’t need you coming into town at this time, we know that there’s still the virus spreading in our community in this state.
“For those that are parents, think about your kids, and think about the likely impact [of] your conduct if you choose to come into the city.”
Out of the 300-400 people who protested, 215 were arrested. Victoria Police said that all those arrested would be fined, and some charged with criminal offences including discharging flares, missiles and other weapons.
Police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse protesters, and what appears to be rubber bullets on a group retreating in Carlton Gardens. Two officers received head injuries, according to a spokesperson, and one was admitted to hospital with chest pains.
The Battle of Carlton Gardens. pic.twitter.com/UUK8OUdiMf
— Ryan Sheales (@RyanSheales) September 22, 2021
The use of the Shrine as a place to protest has garnered widespread criticism from veterans and patriots, but terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University explained why that spot appeals to some of the right-wing protesters.
“Perversely, they are invoking the Anzac digger Spirit,”said, per News.com.au.
“Yet, channelling the same sort of frankly, neofascism that the diggers fought against. But they think that this is iconic and it works for them,” he said.
FYI, the diggers fought against the Nazis. Let’s hope the protesters realise that.