Melbourne protest marches on after warning

A second violent clash outside Melbourne’s construction union headquarters has been avoided but hundreds of protesters are now marching towards state parliament.

© James Ross/AAP PHOTOS Protesters clad in hi-vis gear have started marching toward the Victorian Parliament.

Just before 11.30am protesters wearing hi-vis gear started moving up Victoria Street and away from the CFMEU offices, following a warning from the riot squad.

They let off a flare and fireworks as they marched up Swanston Street and a news crew was assaulted.

Seven Network reporter Paul Dowsley was grabbed by the throat and a cameraman was thrown to the ground.

“There was a group there who certainly targeted us a few minutes ago, we were standing on a seat trying to get an elevated view as the protest group walked past. A few in the crowd had it in for mainstream media,” Dowsley said in a live cross following the assault.

More than 100 officers were walking up Swanston Street in pursuit of the crowd, which turned down La Trobe Street and appeared to be heading for the front steps of parliament. 

Not long before they started marching, police had told them to back down and leave.

“Attention, this is a police public order warning. You have previously been directed to leave,” an officer inside a line of riot police and officers on horseback told the crowd.

“Leave now or force may be used. No further warnings will be given.”

Protesters at the intersection of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets in Melbourne’s CBD near the CFMEU responded with chants of “every day”.

They are opposing a Victorian government mandate requiring all construction workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The group, clad in hi-vis are chanting “f*** the jab”, “f*** off (Premier) Dan Andrews” and other expletives, were blocked from accessing the CFMEU by a line of Victoria Police officers. 

On Monday, riot police were called in to disperse a group of about 500 protesters, who threw bottles at Victorian CFMEU construction secretary John Setka and smashed the office’s door down. 

Mr Setka on Tuesday said the protesters were not all CFMEU members and blamed “neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists” for hijacking the event.

“There was a small minority of construction workers, some of them when it all got violent just walked away from it. It was hijacked by the professional protesters,” the Victorian construction branch secretary John Setka told ABC Radio National on Tuesday morning. 

He said the CFMEU was “pro-vax” but had always supported freedom of choice regarding vaccination.

Mr Setka urged the Victorian government to tackle misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr Setka told 3AW radio he was not at the CFMEU building on Tuesday morning.

Former union leader and federal member for Maribyrnong Bill Shorten said he believed a group of professional trouble makers were to blame for Monday’s “shocking violence”. 

“I never thought I would see a scene where you have people who call themselves Nazis using encrypted message systems to bring in a rent-a-crowd,” he told Nine Network on Tuesday.

“Some of those people … I’m reliably informed were fake tradies.

“There is a network of hard-right man-baby Nazis, just people who just want to cause trouble – these man-babies, they want to complain about vaccinations.”

On Monday night, the state government announced the industry would be shut down from Tuesday for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

All worksites will need to demonstrate compliance with health directions prior to reopening, including 

This includes a requirement for workers to show evidence of having had at least one dose of a vaccine before they return to work on October 5.

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