Melbourne Shuts Down Public Transport To Quash Protests — Violent Clashes With Police Follow

Diego Fedele / Getty Images

Jack Kerley Contributor
Font Size:

The Australian state government of Victoria and the Victoria Police shut down Melbourne center and public transportation Saturday in an effort to quash the planned “Freedom Rally,” a protest against  COVID-19 restrictions.

Authorities announced in a press conference Wednesday that they were strongly considering shutting down Melbourne’s public transport ahead of planned protests against the Labor government’s COVID-19 restrictions. “We’ll be doing everything we can to prevent people attending,” Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton said on radio station 3AW, citing violence that had occurred at the Aug. 21 “Freedom Rally” protest. (RELATED: Australia Plans To Deploy The Army To Enforce COVID Lockdown Orders)

Despite efforts from police, protests began at Richmond Town Hall on the corner of Church Street and Bridge Road in Melbourne. The crowd chanted, “You serve us” and “shame on you,” among other slogans, according to footage posted on Twitter.

With hands on their batons, police officers began herding the protesters into a street where they could employ a tactic called ‘”kettling,” video shows. However, protesters linked arms and broke police lines, similar to scenes from previous protests throughout Australia, video shows.

The Victorian Police Union slammed the actions of Saturday’s protesters. “What we saw yesterday was just acts from criminals,” Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said while denying any wrongdoing from the Victorian Police and calling the protests “unlawful.”

Police have been caught on camera punching, kicking, pepper-spraying protesters, along with journalists, who have had a hard time covering protests in Melbourne due to police hostility throughout 2020 and 2021.

After the events, Victoria Police said that 235 arrests were made, 193 fines handed out, and that some protesters received assault and weapons charges, according to Australia’s SBS.

Both the police and protesters suffered injuries, with authorities stating that ten officers were injured with six being taken to hospital according to The Age. It remains unclear how many protesters suffered injuries.  One incident, widely captured on by multiple parties, showed two male officers shoving an elderly woman to the ground before dousing her with capsicum spray.

Each protester arrested faces AU $5,500 fines for breaching public health orders, according to the Daily Mail.

The hashtag “ThankYouVicPol” made the rounds on Twitter following the protest, with some accounts praising the police’s actions Saturday.

A “roadmap out of COVID lockdown” was released by the Victorian Government on Sept. 19 revealing the relaxing of some restrictions, such as indoor dining, for those who are vaccinated. Australia is currently recording 1,162 deaths from COVID-19, amassing a death rate of 0.0044% nationwide. (RELATED: ‘Invasion Of Bodily Autonomy’: Journalist Glenn Greenwald Rips Proposed Vaccine Passport ‘Caste System.’