Police brace for anti-lockdown rally planned in Melbourne CBD on Saturday
Victoria Police are already out in force as they brace for a planned anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday afternoon.
Despite the closure of main roads and suspension of public transport into the city, protesters are still planning on following through with the rally, slammed by Premier Daniel Andrews as selfish.
Protesters have 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.
Some speculated that the location needed to be moved to give police the slip, while others said they needed to “stand up” to the 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 will be cut between 8am and 2pm, to prevent access to the planned protest site.
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.