Police vow to stop violent Melbourne protests

© Nine Protesters were chanting

Thousands of protesters have returned to causing havoc on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD after taking over a major Melbourne freeway.

The crowd of high-vis clad protesters are marching back along Spencer Street towards Flinders Street, near to where the protest began about seven hours ago.

Protesters have been seen walking into peak-hour traffic travelling at about 80km/h, hitting cars – including police cars, forcing trams to halt, setting off flares, drinking alcohol and throwing items at police.

© Nine A protestor does a ‘shoey’ in the middle of a street.
© Nine Protestors mount a ute on the West Gate.

They have returned to the streets of the CBD after invading the West Gate Freeway, where they brought traffic to a stop and some climbed on top of halted vehicles, including a truck.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton provided an update on the unfolding unrest, reassuring Melburnians: “We will stop this protest”.

“Our primary focus is the safety of the public,” he said.

He said police would bring an end to the “challenging” protest then “step back and investigate and hold those responsible to account”.

He said the crowd of protesters had ranged from an estimated 1000 to 2000 people throughout the day.

Chief Commissioner Patton said the protest involved “criminal acts” including the damaging of police cars and the assault of a journalist.

He said specialist police had used pepper balls, foam baton rounds, smoke rounds and stinger grenades to try to stop the protest.

Police are set to provide another update later tonight or tomorrow.

© Nine Police form a line on the West Gate Bridge.
© Nine Police form a line on the West Gate Bridge.

Earlier aerial vision captured a steady stream of construction workers in high-vis sprawling across the busy West Gate Freeway on the outskirts of the CBD in Docklands.

The workers were seen weaving in and out of large trucks and traffic, ignoring the honking of horns, while chanting “f— the jab”, lighting flares and flying Donald Trump 2020 and CFMEU flags.

VicRoads earlier urged drivers to “exit the freeway as soon as possible”.

© Nine Protesters have taken over a Melbourne freeway, stopping traffic.
© Nine The protesters were seen weaving in and out of traffic.

The protests in Melbourne’s CBD turned violent hours earlier with some angry demonstrators igniting orange and red flares and fireworks.

Rowdy groups hurled glass bottles, cans and other objects at police officers and bystanders near Flinders Street.

The riled-up construction workers have rallied through city streets in protest against the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

https://twitter.com/VicTraffic/status/1440170635800444934

© Nine Protesters were chanting
© Nine Angry protesters are lighting flares.

The protesters had been travelling down city streets since about 10am, playing “cat-and-mouse” with police by doing laps around the CBD.

Police have turned up in full force to stop . A sea of hi-vis as construction workers storm through the city. A protester held a Trump flag while marching through city streets.

The group earlier came to a stop outside Parliament House where a wall of riot squad police manned the entrance.

Crowds then appeared to march towards Flinders Street, prompting a line of police to man the station.

They then continued to travel towards Southern Cross Station, chanting “freedom” and “every day” before later looping back to Flinders Street.

© Nine Protesters came to a stop outside Parliament House in Melbourne. https://twitter.com/gillianlant/status/1440141456417562624
© Nine Flares have been lit as protesters swarm Melbourne CBD.
© Nine Police are attempting to keep up with the angry mob of protesters.

Dozens of police formed multiples lines down Elizabeth Street barricading the CFMEU’s office in readiness to stop the protest from getting out of control and prevent the violent scenes that occurred yesterday.

Heavily armed police with gas masks arrived and officers blared messages over a speaker, warning protesters to “leave now or force may be used”.

“We’ll send this city broke, we’ll tear it down,” one protester yelled in response.

Police mounted on horseback moved towards the protesters as they chanted “freedom”.

The protesters have vowed to continue the demonstrations until their list of demands is met, including axing mandatory vaccinations.

© Nine Riot Squad police have arrived in Melbourne CBD to control rowdy protesters.
© Nine Riot squad police in Melbourne CBD work to control construction protests.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley called the protests outside Melbourne’s CFMEU headquarters “an insult to Victorians doing the right thing”, labelling the rally “deplorable”.

“(These protests) are an insult to every Victorian doing the right thing and working so hard,” Mr Foley said.

“It in itself risks being a super-spreader event, let alone a breach of the public health orders.”

There are 403 COVID-19 infections linked to the construction industry and 186 sites affected in the state.

https://twitter.com/gillianlant/status/1440120571686121481

© Nine Police have formed a line to barricade angry protesters in Melbourne CBD.

Riot police were forced to disperse hundreds of riled-up construction workers yesterday, who were brawling and throwing bottles at the glass entrance for about seven hours.

It comes as the Victorian Government announced that construction workers needed to have one vaccine dose in order to work from Friday.

Aerial view of dozens of protesters in Melbourne CBD on Tuesday. Some protesters held ‘freedom’ signs as they rallied through Melbourne CBD on Tuesday. Hundreds of construction workers have turned up to protest in Melbourne CBD.

The violent protest held outside the union headquarters yesterday was heavily infiltrated with “rent-a-crowd” protesters and neo-Nazis, union boss John Setka has claimed.

Speaking to Today, the CFMEU leader said he attempted to calm the riled-up mob but the environment turned hostile.

“You couldn’t even talk – we tried to keep it all calm, and it just got out of control,” Mr Setka said.

“People started throwing bottles. Some of them were fighting amongst themselves.

“You know, once they started throwing the bottles, that was it – we just said this is too dangerous, let’s move back in.

“It just got out of control from there.”

© Nine CFMEU union boss John Setka has slammed the mob of protesters for violently protesting outside his office.
© Nine Construction workers protest outside the office of the CFMEU against mandatory vaccines in the construction industry.

A number of protesters were arrested.

Mr Setka has claimed the majority of the protesters were not construction workers.

“There was a sprinkling of construction workers there, of our members, and the rest were just people, I wouldn’t even know who they are,” he said.

“All the rent-a-crowds were there, professional protesters.

“A few of them anti-vaxxer activists were there – who are not union members, they’re not from our industry – and they’re the ones you see at all the protests.

© The Age Another construction protest is planned in Melbourne today.

The $22 billion Victorian construction industry has been shut down for at least two weeks in response to the violent protest and “widespread non-compliance” with COVID-19 restrictions, as transmission continues to rip through the sector.

Treasurer Tim Pallas confirmed the shutdown last night, about two hours before it came into force at 11.59pm.

© Nine Protest outside the CFMEU office.

Federal Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten told Today he had been informed the crowd was made up of “fake tradies” and “professional trouble-makers”.

“They’d been down to the Reject Shop and got themselves a $2 high-vis so they could pretend they were construction,” he said.

“This is all because the construction unions have been running radio ads, have been encouraging people to get vaccinated and that doesn’t suit the hard right or the extremist agenda of some trouble-makers.

“It was shocking violence against people who’ve been showing leadership in the construction industry.”

© Getty Riot police were called in to disperse the angry protesters.

Mr Shorten said there was a network of “man-baby Nazis” who wanted to stir trouble.

“I never thought I’d see a scene where you have people who call themselves Nazis using encrypted message systems to bring in rent-a-crowd,” he said.

“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 the vaccination, and – they deserve to get the full force of everything that’s coming their way.”

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