Protesters gather outside Melbourne CBD as police brace for anti-lockdown rally
Protesters have began gathering at Richmond on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD as part of what they claim is a peaceful an anti-lockdown rally.
The closure of main roads and suspension of public transport into the CBD forced protesters to change the location of the rally, which has been slammed by Premier Daniel Andrews as selfish.
Protesters spent the morning encouraging each other to follow through with the 12pm action, even with the promise of heavy police attention, in a message thread on encrypted app Telegram.
As police fortified the city, group organisers announced midmorning the location would be changed from the CBD to the corner of Bridge Rd and Church St in Richmond, on the edge of the city.
About 12pm hundreds of people started to gather outside the Richmond town hall, located a stone’s throw from the police station.
They began chanting “no more lockdown” and “sack Dan Andrews” as a police line was formed at the intersection of Church St and Bridge Rd.
Some earlier said the planned site had to be changed to give police the slip, while others argued they needed to “stand up” to authorities.
The rally coincides with the relaxation of some measures across metropolitan Melbourne, including five fully vaccinated people being able to meet outdoors from two separate households, and the doubling of outdoor exercise times and travel limits.
Roadblocks and hard barricades were put in place early on Saturday morning as trains and trams began to terminate well before reaching the city.
Public transport into the CBD has been cut between 8am and 2pm, to stop protesters gathering.
Victoria Police had promised to effectively shut the city down to prevent a repeat of ugly clashes between officers and protesters last month.
About 2000 police officers – double the figure from previous events – will be deployed to prevent the rally.
Authorities have deemed the protest a potential “superspreader” event for Victoria, which on Saturday recorded 535 new local Covid-19 cases.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Wednesday officers would do “everything we can to prevent access to the city”.
“Anyone who’s planning to come in, it is an illegal gathering and we’ll be doing everything we can to prevent that gathering,” Mr Patton said.
“And if people do get to make it into the CBD for that gathering, we’ll be enforcing that.”
Those entering the city risk $5500 fines for breaching public health orders.
Saturday’s action comes after more than 4000 people descended on the CBD on August 21.
Police made 200 arrests, while six officers were hospitalised after wild scenes in the city, with the force’s top brass branding it one of the most violent demonstrations in 20 years.
Originally published as Protesters gather outside the CBD as police brace for Melbourne anti-lockdown rally
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