Melbourne Protests: Police confront demonstrators in St Kilda

Hundreds of police have swarmed the St Kilda foreshore in a bid to contain a protest against COVID-19 lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations that has sprung up in the bayside suburb.

© Bianca Hall A man was just led away after being arrested. He has visible facial injuries and was screaming “f— victoria police”. Kids are still skating in the skate bowl amid all of the activity around them. Image: Bianca Hall for The Sunday Age, 26 September 2021.

Up to 200 protesters gathered shortly before 1pm and started chanting slogans like “together, united, we’ll never be divided” while a police helicopter hovers overhead and even a police boat sits offshore.

At least a dozen arrests have been made, including one of the apparent protest leaders.

Protesters have scattered into smaller groups and are outnumbered by police, who are moving in to make further arrests.

Public Order Response vehicles and marked and unmarked police cars descended on the area as police on foot moved in and began making arrests as the group moved into a nearby skate park, where children continued to skate as police began making arrests and protesters heckled the arresting officers.

© Bianca Hall Image showing police dealing with protesters outside Palace Theatre in St Kilda on 25 September 2021. Image: Bianca Hall

Protesters were heard singing The Living End’s ‘Prisoner of Society’ and ‘Get Up Stand Up’ by Bob Marley as they moved along the waterfront.

Arrests have begun @theage

— Rachael Dexter (@rachael_dexter) September 25, 2021

Earlier on Saturday, organisers summoned participants in the so-called “Millions March for Freedom” demonstration to Melbourne’s Lunar Park this morning before the expected start time of 12pm. They later revised plans in social media channels due to the heavy police presence.

Video: Strong police response seen in Melbourne amid ongoing protests (Sky News Australia)

The rally follows a series of violent clashes between protesters and Victoria earlier this week. Around 200 protesters were arrested on Friday, with protesters moving from the CBD to the inner-north, where a brief scuffle with police outside Northcote Plaza occurred.

A number of large protests occurred in the city earlier this week, with demonstrators occupying the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday and bringing traffic to a standstill on the West Gate Bridge on Tuesday. The protest movement has been spurred on by a public health direction that construction workers must be vaccinated before returning to work.

Passersby were being stopped by officers, to check their identification and reason for being in the vicinity.

One woman wearing a bright pink helmet near Luna Park bailed up nearby police officers while decrying violence on the street and police brutality.

A large police presence was established at key points around Melbourne’s subdued CBD on Saturday morning, on a far from ordinary AFL Grand Final day.

Many pedestrians were being stopped and asked about their movements at Flinders Street Station, with police hoping to ward off any protesters. The mounted branch was seen patrolling city streets ahead of demonstrations potentially moving toward the CBD.

Earlier in the day, encrypted chat groups were divided about tactics for the day’s event. Some called for the movement to take on a more ‘family friendly’ image and organise a slew of picnics where families could gather, while others advocated violence against Victoria Police.

Health authorities confirmed on Friday that a protester who attended this week’s rally has since tested positive for COVID-19 and is in a Melbourne hospital being treated for the virus.

Health Minister Martin Foley said at press conference on Saturday that he “hoped” the protesters were losing steam for their cause, noting that a number Victoria Police members now have to isolate as a result of being close contacts to a positive case which attended Wednesday’s protest.

“What we’ve seen over the past week with the events in Richmond and Hawthorn last weekend and the completely regrettable activities over the course of this week is unrepresentative, ill-advised activity that will only achieve the direct opposite of what it says it is designed to do,” he said.

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