Vic protesters given 'final' warning

Hundreds of hi-vis-clad protesters chanting near the construction union’s Melbourne office for a second day have been told to back down by police.

© James Ross/AAP PHOTOS Victoria Police have ordered hundreds of protesters near the CFMEU Melbourne office to back down.

“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.”

The group of protesters at the intersection of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets in Melbourne’s CBD on Tuesday 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, but are being blocked from accessing the CFMEU headquarters 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.

“They’ve been down to the Reject Shop and got themselves a $2 hi-viz hoodie.”

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.

Mr Shorten defended the CFMEU saying the construction union was being responsible and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“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,” he said.

“They deserve to get the full force of everything that’s coming their way.”

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