Daniel Andrews has blasted violent protesters who caused chaos in Melbourne on Tuesday as police vowed to use new tactics to fight back.
About 2,000 tradesmen and anti-vaccination and freedom campaigners rampaged through the city to demonstrate against a two-week shut down of the construction industry imposed due to rising Covid cases.
Police – who were caught short by the hastily organised protest – said 62 people have been arrested after footage showed violent thugs attacking police by throwing cans or punching them in the street.
Daniel Andrews has blasted violent anti-vaccination protesters in Melbourne who took the city by storm on Tuesday
The protesters have been communicating using encrypted messaging app Telegram (above are their messages). Police say they have no obvious leader, making discussions difficult
Mr Andrews said the actions were an ‘insult’ to the majority of law-abiding tradies and said the protesters were not just builders but also far-right freedom and anti-vax protesters.
‘Can I say at the outset that the ugly scenes that we saw yesterday are not only appalling, they’re unlawful. Victoria Police will take action against those who did the wrong thing yesterday,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘I think there were some people there who you would say were from the building industry.
‘There were others who were not from the building industry. They’re not there to protests, they’re there for a fight, pretend to be protesting. They’re from many different backgrounds.
‘What offends me is not only is the conduct, but in my job, over many years, I have met hundreds and thousands of builders, hundreds and thousands of tradies who build this state, whether it be removing level crossings, building hospitals and schools, all the way through to building homes, they’re fine people, hardworking people, and what we saw yesterday is an insult, an insult, to the vast, vast majority of tradies or people in the building industry who are not about wrecking, they’re about building,’ he said.
Ahead of more expected protests on Wednesday, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Shane Patton said officers would employ ‘different’ tactics and have more boots on the ground – but refused to reveal operational details.
Thousands of angry anti-vaxx protesters have vowed to march on Melbourne‘s streets ‘every day’ this week ‘until demands are met’ as part of a violent crusade sparked by mandatory coronavirus vaccinations on job sites.
The protesters have been communicating using encrypted messaging app Telegram. Police say they have no obvious leader, making discussions difficult.
Riot cops are expected to be armed with rubber bullets, pepper balls and stinger grenades ready to take on the mob ‘head on’.
Mr Andrews’ condemnation of the protesters came after he copped criticism for ‘hiding’ from the cameras on Tuesday, only issuing a meekly-worded statement issued later on Tuesday evening.
Victoria’s police chief has warned next time ‘things will be different’ with riot cops ready to take on the mob ‘head on’ (pictured, riot police pictured at the Melbourne protest on Tuesday)
About 2,000 angry protesters took to the streets (pictured on Tuesday) to oppose mandatory Covid vaccinations on work sites – with unions insisting many weren’t tradies but ‘far-right opportunists’
Thousands of angry tradies have vowed to march on Melbourne’s streets ‘every day’ as part of their violent crusade against Covid vaccinations (pictured, a post promoting more days of unrest)
Tensions have been brewing for months within the construction industry with a significant contingent of workers vehemently opposed to the jab requirement.
That resentment exploded this week with hi-vis-wearing anti-vaxx demonstrators hurling projectiles at the CFMEU headquarters on Monday, before taking over the entire city on Tuesday.
A rudderless mob of up to 2,000 stormed across the CBD for more than seven hours clashing with police, lighting flares, hurling rocks and in one case even assaulting a Channel 7 news reporter by throwing urine on him.
The out-of-control group even scaled the West Gate Bridge shutting down traffic and jumping on cars as terrified bystanders including children watched on in fear from inside their surrounded vehicles.
‘This was a very large and very, very angry group. Crowds like this, they’re for cowards,’ Chief Commissioner of Police Shane Patton said.
‘Cowards who seek to hide their identity… to do other things that if they were by themselves they wouldn’t have the courage to do.
The out-of-control group even scaled the West Gate Bridge (pictured on Tuesday) shutting down traffic and jumping on cars as terrified bystanders including children watched on in fear from inside their surrounded vehicles
A police officer receives treatment during a protest by construction workers and demonstrators against Covid-19 regulations in Melbourne (pictured on Tuesday)
A demonstrator is sent flying backwards off his bike as scenes turned ugly at the anti-vaxx protest (pictured on Tuesday)
‘I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a citizen in your car …. how scary that would have been.’
An online poster created by rally organisers declares the ‘Victorian Workers Rally for Freedom’ will continue ‘every day’ from 10am outside the head office of the CFMEU until their ‘no vaccine mandate’ demand is met.
But Commissioner Patton has promised that police will be ready to unleash a range of new counter measures on Wednesday, setting the scene for a fiery showdown.
‘I’m not going to disclose what our tactics will be… but they will be different,’ he said.
‘This is utter criminal conduct they’ve been involved in. You cannot come in and break the law. We will hold you to account.’
Commissioner Patton has promised that police will be ready to unleash a range of new counter measures on Wednesday, setting the scene for a fiery showdown (pictured, police take down a protester at 6pm on Tuesday as the violence continued)
Tensions have been brewing for months within the construction industry with a significant contingent of workers vehemently opposed to the jab requirement (pictured, protesters on Tuesday)
Riot cops armed with rubber bullets, pepper balls and stinger grenades are pictured at the protest – with ‘new tactics’ to control the crowds set to be brought in on Wednesday
The premier (pictured) refused to reference the damage and injuries inflicted by the mob, which the CFMEU said was fuelled by ‘neo-Nazis’
DAN ANDREWS’ SOFTLY-WORDED RESPONCE TO RIOTS
‘There is no excuse for the terrible behaviour we have seen in our city over the last two days.
‘Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of Covid – in fact it only helps the virus to spread.
‘Thank you to the brave men and women of Victoria Police for their work today – and every day – to keep our community safe.
‘We know vaccinations are our only ticket out of this pandemic. There is no other way.
‘For those who think violence is the answer, I ask that you think of your fellow Victorians – doing the right thing over many months, following the advice of our health experts.
‘We have come too far to turn back now.
‘Please spare a thought for our healthcare workers who are working such long hours looking after patients, many who are struggling to breathe.
‘The more of us who get vaccinated, the fewer of us who will end up in hospital.
‘It’s as simple as that.’
Although more than 500 officers were deployed on Tuesday with the assistance of police air wing helicopters, the police chief said it was ‘really challenging for us’ because of the ‘spontaneity and tactics they employed throughout the day’.
Three officers were injured in the chaos along with veteran journalist Paul Dowsley who had a can thrown at the back of his head, was doused with urine and grabbed around the throat.
There were just 62 protesters arrested, but police have vowed to scour CCTV and social media footage in order to bring more arrests in the coming days and weeks.
‘They seem to be intent on random violence,’ Commissioner Patton said.
‘It’s clear this was not a protest, this was at times an affray.
‘When you’ve got a couple of thousands of people traipsing around town … throwing bottles, throwing lit flares… it defies logic for anyone to respond to that … and control the (crowd).’
Premier Andrews backed up the state’s top cop in a brief statement posted to Twitter at 8:41pm, saying there is ‘no excuse for the terrible behaviour we have seen in our city over the last two days’.
But he failed to reference the damage or injuries suffered by police officers, instead imploring protesters to ‘think of their fellow Victorians’.
‘We know vaccinations are our only ticket out of this pandemic. There is no other way,’ he said.
‘For those who think violence is the answer, I ask that you think of your fellow Victorians – doing the right thing over many months, following the advice of our health experts.’
The embattled state leader pleaded with protesters to ‘spare a thought for our healthcare workers who are working such long hours looking after patients, many who are struggling to breathe.’
‘The more of us who get vaccinated, the fewer of us who will end up in hospital,’ he said. ‘It’s as simple as that.’
A large contingent of police line up on the West Gate Bridge (pictured on Tuesday afternoon) as the angry mob approaches
A rudderless mob of up to 2000 stormed across the CBD for more than seven hours clashing with police (pictured, protesters on Tuesday)
Demonstrators also lit flares, hurled rocks and in one case even assaulting a Channel 7 news reporter by throwing urine on him (pictured, protesters on Tuesday)
For many the softly-worded statement did not go far enough to condemn the mob, which the CFMEU claimed was fuelled by ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’ – not its own members.
Construction industry workers in Victoria have been furious over Covid compliance measures enforced on their industry.
Of the state’s 6,000 active Covid cases, 403 are directly linked to 186 construction sites – with health officials fearing the industry is not taking the deadly virus seriously.
Police with crowd control shields force back demonstrators during the clashes as the situation became increasingly violent on Tuesday (pictured)
A demonstrator in wrestled to the ground by officers (pictured in Melbourne on Tuesday), but just 62 arrests were made out of 2,000 who attended
MELBOURNE ANTI-VAXXER PROTESTERS’ LIST OF DEMANDS
1. Emergency state powers to be removed immediately
2. Lockdowns to end immediately
3. Mask mandate to end immediately
4. Vaccine mandates to end immediately
5. Vaccine passport to be removed
6. Immediate resignation of Premier Daniel Andrews
7. Immediate resignation of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton
8. Immediate resignation of Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton
9. Royal commission into government’s response to pandemic
10. Charges laid against officers for ‘assaulting peaceful protesters’
11. All construction sites to resume immediately.
12. Mass distribution of invermectin, vitamins C, D, and zinc
Last week, in an attempt to stop the virus spreading on work sites, lunch rooms were shut down prompting scores of Melbourne tradies to block off busy roads with barbecues and outdoor furniture.
The impromptu protest was not well received by the broader public as the building industry has been largely able to continue operating during Victoria’s lockdowns while other sectors have been forced to close.
After about 1,000 riled-up workers stormed the CFMEU head office in Melbourne on Monday, breaking stay-at-home orders, Mr Andrews declared all job sites would be shut down for two weeks.
Furious tradies in the aftermath then organised Tuesday’s protest on encrypted apps such as Telegram – popular with right-wing extremists and conspiracy groups.
The platform played a key role in the US Capitol insurrection back in January where tens of thousands of Trump supporters entered Congress bringing Washington to a standstill.
At Tuesday’s demonstrations several were bizarrely seen waving Trump flags as they marched with the violent horde.
Union leaders have dubiously claimed the mob are mostly made up of ‘fake tradies’ and have little to do with the construction sector (pictured, protesters on Tuesday)
Construction industry workers in Victoria have been furious over Covid compliance measures enforced on their industry (pictured, crowds storming West Gate Bridge on Tuesday)
Union leaders have dubiously claimed the mob are mostly made up of ‘fake tradies’ and have little to do with the construction sector.
Federal member for Maribyrnong and former Australian Workers’ Union boss Bill Shorten told the Today show the rowdy mob is just a ‘Nazi rent-a-crowd’ who got themselves a $2 hi-viz hoody from the ‘Reject Shop’.
CFMEU boss John Setka labelled the majority of protesters ‘man-baby Nazis’ and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the unions have been ‘infiltrated’.
But senior figures within the CFMEU say although far-right agitators and anti-vaxxers have exploited the situation, about ’80 to 90 per cent’ of the demonstrators were construction workers, The Age reported.
The sources also added that the once militant left wing union has seen a cultural shift take place among some of its members, with a growing number identifying with fringe right-wing ideologies.
Victoria’s construction industry shut down – explained
The shutdown was announced late on Monday following violent protests outside the CFMEU’s head office in Melbourne’s CBD over a vaccine mandate for the industry.
It applies to work sites across Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Mitchell Shire and the Surf Coast.
Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said the shutdown was required to cut down movement, reduce COVID-19 transmission and give the industry time to adapt to the new requirements.
‘We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on-site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation,’ he said in a statement.
An amnesty was in place on Monday so that a limited number of workers can attend construction sites to shut them down safely.
The government said all sites will need to demonstrate compliance with the chief health officer’s directions prior to reopening, including the requirement for workers to show evidence of having had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to work on October 5.
The Property Council of Australia said the shutdown would cost the economy $1.1 billion a week.
‘The majority of construction sites and construction workers are doing everything required of them to meet the highest standards of COVID safety and have done so since the pandemic started,’ executive director Danni Hunter said in a statement.
‘Closing the industry will prevent them going to work and getting paid and it will stall projects causing immensely costly delays, putting projects and Victorian jobs at risk.’
Opposition industry spokeswoman Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its ‘panicked decision’.
‘The Liberal Nationals condemn the violent protests, but the actions of a few should not be used as an excuse to shut down an entire industry, putting tens of thousands of people out of work,’ she said in a statement.
Union officials say Monday’s protesters were not all CFMEU members and blamed ‘neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists’ for hijacking the event.
The protest escalated when two union officials, including Victorian construction branch secretary John Sekta, came outside the Elizabeth Street office to speak to protesters just before midday.
Mr Setka was met with boos and insults from the crowd, while some protesters hurled bottles.
Violence escalated even further on Tuesday, with 2,000 protesters storming the West Gate Bridge, bringing traffic to a standstill and evening attacking cars
Organisers have vowed to host protests ‘every day’ until the mandatory vaccine mandate for tradies is dropped
Construction sites have been a place of high spread in the latest outbreak, forcing health officials to close tearooms last week.
The state’s roadmap out of lockdown was released on Sunday, detailing small changes to restrictions when 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received a single vaccine dose.
Melbourne’s lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.
Business News Governmental News Finance News