The government in the Australian state of Victoria announced Monday that construction sites will be closed down for two weeks due to a recent spike in COVID-19 among construction workers and anti-vax mandate protests.
“The Victorian Government has advised us that, as they are continuing to see an increase in COVID-19 transmissions in the building and construction industry, combined with the riots in Melbourne today, all building and construction industry worksites (includes all residential and commercial sites) in Metropolitan Melbourne, Geelong, Surf Coast, Ballarat and the Mitchell Shire must close for a 2-week period from 11.59pm tonight, Monday 20 September 2021,” announced the Master Builders Association of Victoria on their Facebook page.
Estimates have come out claiming that the two-week shut down will cost the city of Melbourne and surrounding areas a total of AU $6 billion, around U.S. $4.3 billion, according to The Guardian
The protests were sparked upon learning that vaccinations were going to be mandated for all tradesmen in the metropolitan Melbourne area, as well as masks while working and the removal of break rooms. (RELATED: Melbourne Shuts Down Public Transport To Quash Protests — Violent Clashes With Police Follow)
“I’ve never met the bloke, I don’t even know him so stop calling Dan my mate, I’ve never met the bloke,” said Setka through a megaphone after the crowd accused him of rubbing shoulders and kowtowing to please Victorian premier Daniel Andrews.
The crowd then broke into chants of “Dan Andrews B*tch,” among other insults.
Violence then broke out at the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters after the leaders retreated inside the building following torrents of abuse being launched at the Victorian CFMEU State Secretary John Setka.
The protest consisted of construction workers, laborers and carpenters, among others. The leadership of the unions and some politicians claimed the crowd included far-right extremists and neo-Nazis.
“Some of these extreme right wing organisations, I’ve been told the neo-Nazis and all them, a whole heap of these people are involved,” Setka said on 3AW, a Melbourne Radio show.
This echoes claims from the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, who claimed the protests were “orchestrated by violent right-wing extremists and anti-vaccination activists” on Twitter.
The ACTU condemns the violent attack on @CFMEUVicTas office orchestrated by violent right-wing extremists and anti-vaccination activists.
This violent attack on union property which endangered union officials, staff and the public was reprehensible.
— Sally McManus (@sallymcmanus) September 20, 2021
The ex-leader of Australia’s left wing party, Bill Shorten, claimed to be “reliably informed” to the fact the crowd consisted mainly of “man baby Nazis.”
The man-baby Nazis who attacked the construction union’s HQ deserve to the have the book thrown at them. pic.twitter.com/fFrYPr1aX8
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) September 20, 2021
“I think I watched every bit of vision that came through,” said 3AW host Neil Mitchell. “We’re getting a lot of call from people that were there that weren’t extreme right wingers or anti-vaxxers”
“A minority of those who participated were actual union members,” the CFMEU said in a press release.
Victoria police were hesitant to approach the rowdy crowd but eventually showed up with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protesters gathering in Melbourne at 10 a.m., Sept. 21 saw police respond with heavily armed riot squads to in an effort to control the protests. The tradesmen chanted “every day,” indicating that they won’t stop until the union stands with them.
Police threatening unarmed union protesters with violence if they refuse to disperse.
No one moves.
In fact, they promise to return “every day”.pic.twitter.com/73WJW7jv7x
— Avi Yemini 🇦🇺🇮🇱 (@OzraeliAvi) September 21, 2021
These scenes follow a peaceful sit-in protest against the removal of the tradesmen break rooms and smoking breaks.
Mounted and riot police holding weapons prepare to advance on protesting tradies in Melbourne while an Australian flag drifts in the background pic.twitter.com/fve6gxcuDr
— Malcolm Roberts 🇦🇺 (@MRobertsQLD) September 21, 2021
They’re being warned. pic.twitter.com/qzi4XE5P0l
— Paul Dowsley (@paul_dowsley) September 21, 2021
Shooting rubber bullets again 🤬
This sounds like Kabul not Melbourne pic.twitter.com/NjphIYbsvq
— ValGlass2.0 (@AussieVal10) September 20, 2021
Current protests are escalating, with police threatening violence against demonstrators. Police have been observed to be holding grenade launchers and AR-15s.