A three-day demonstration against the lockdown and mandatory shutdown in Australia has turned into violence.
Thousands gathered in locked-down Melbourne on Tuesday to protest the construction industry’s ongoing shutdown after workers refused to receive a COVID vaccine.
The Australian state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, has mandated at least one vaccination dose for all construction workers by the end of the week.
According to officials, the construction sites were also being non-compliance with other major health and safety requirements prior to the closure.
The construction industry in Victoria has been directly linked to 403 direct COVID cases in recent weeks.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said: “As a result of these figures, the public health team was left with no choice but to press the pause button.”
Construction workers also included anti-vaxxers and those against the prolonged lockdown in Victoria.
Protesters then crowded in high-vis clothing around the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Marine, Mining and Energy Union) building, while defying stay-at-home orders earlier this week.
The crowd was furious. His union had not supported him in his fight against mandatory vaccines.
As the protesters gathered, an officer from the riot police line told the crowd: “Attention, this is a public order warning from the police.
“You have been directed to leave first. Leave now or force may be used. No further warnings will be given.”
More than 60 protesters were arrested after damaging property, blocking a highway and injuring officers.
During the eight-hour protest, officers used stinger grenades along with paper balls, foam baton rounds, smoke bombs and rubber pellets.
Victoria State Police Commissioner Shane Patton said: “It was a very, very large and very, very angry group.
“And it was a challenging and conflicting environment.”
The protests also took place on Monday, when there were around 500 protesters. However, according to CFMEU construction secretary John Setka, most of Monday’s crowd were “right-wing extremists” pushing back against the mandatory jabs.
He told ABC: “There was a small minority of construction workers, some of them just walked away when it all turned violent. It was hijacked by professional protesters.”
Explaining why the industry was shut down, Industry and Transport Minister Tim Pallas said: “The construction industry effectively spread the virus to communities in the north and west of Melbourne, but also in the south-east and then back has been and is spreading to other workplaces.”
He said this week’s protests showed “some appalling behavior on our streets”, which added to the “public health risk”.
Sites must prove they are compliant with health measures and all workers must receive at least one dose of the vaccine before they can reopen in October.
People were advised to stay away on Wednesday.
Australia has already closed its biggest cities – Sydney and Melbourne, along with the capital Canberra – after the outbreak of the delta variant.
On Tuesday, Victoria reached its highest daily figure for Covid infections at 603, although Australia’s infections are still much lower than many other comparable countries.