Police in Melbourne, Australia, fired pepper balls and large-sized projectiles at unarmed civilians on Wednesday, seeking to disperse crowds that took to the streets to protest against the government’s vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
This is the third day of demonstrations by construction industry workers in Melbourne against mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. Besides construction workers, protesters also included others who oppose mandatory vaccination as well as the extended lockdown in Victoria state.
Videos in the morning showed police firing shots at small groups of people in Melbourne’s central business district (CBD), with photos of the projectile rounds appearing to be half the size of a fist. A separate video showed a policeman tackling a woman onto the ground.
Starting in the early afternoon, groups of protesters, ultimately totaling about 2,000, converged from various areas and marched from around the Melbourne headquarters of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) toward the Shrine of Remembrance, a sacred war memorial, ultimately gathering there later in the afternoon.
Riot police deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd as they marched down Elizabeth St, after which they scattered across the city before regrouping on Victoria St and continued onwards to the Shrine, reported the Herald Sun.
At the Shrine, they chanted multiple slogans against vaccine mandates and against Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. They also sang songs, including the national anthem. The crowd furthermore held a minute’s silence for those who died from suicide amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Numbers dwindled at the shrine throughout the afternoon amid back and forth negotiations between the crowd and the riot police, who said they could peacefully leave the area without getting arrested.
Police surrounded the area at about 2:20 p.m., reported the Herald Sun. At the time, the vast majority of the group remained on the steps of the memorial.
A man on a loudspeaker called on police to stand down. “Protesting is a human right … we must be allowed to walk,” he told the surrounding officers, reported the outlet. “You still have a chance to do what you signed up to do, and have children who look up to you.
“We are here to be peaceful we don’t have weapons … we need you, like you need us,” the man said.
The standoff reportedly lasted over three hours, during which the crowd was heard chanting “hold your ground.” A video showed police officers taking select people away to arrest them amid the standoff.
By approximately 4:20 p.m., a police loudspeaker told the crowd they were “free to leave” via St Kilda Road. Heavily armed officers began to move in on the unarmed protesters, eventually surrounding a smaller number of protesters on the steps of the Shrine.
Video from independent journalist Rukshan Fernando, also known as The Real Rukshan on social media, showed protesters scattering in all directions in a frenzy amid sounds of shots fired. Riot officers aimed their weapons at the unarmed crowd. A desperate cry of “Stop!” can be heard amid the shots. It is unclear how many people in the crowd were injured as they… (Read more)
— Antonio Montana 🇦🇺 (@dnforca) September 22, 2021
Construction workers chant ‘hold your ground’ at Melbourne protest as police close in. pic.twitter.com/THAvOPsERl
— Avi Yemini 🇦🇺🇮🇱 (@OzraeliAvi) September 22, 2021
Welcome to Australia. pic.twitter.com/2yiCix9Jnp
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) September 22, 2021