Police fire rubber bullets on crowd as Melbourne protests descends into violence
Authorities have admitted being caught off guard by the “spontaneity” of the mayhem that descended on Melbourne as Daniel Andrews slammed the “acts of violence”.
Critical response units were deployed in the city to squash the second day of protests over mandatory vaccinations after three police officers and a journalist were injured.
The Victoria Premier said there was “no excuse for the terrible behaviour” that unfolded.
“Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of Covid - in fact it only helps the virus to spread,” he said in a statement on Tuesday night.
“We know vaccinations are our only ticket out of this pandemic. There is no other way.
“For those who think violence is the answer, I ask that you think of your fellow Victorians - doing the right thing over many months, following the advice of our health experts.”
Between 1000 and 2000 people took to the streets on Tuesday.
Victoria Police have made 62 arrests, with several people charged with assaulting officers.
The vast majority of those arrested were fined more than $5000 each for breaching public health orders.
Police have warned there will be more arrests.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said some people at the rallies were construction workers and tradies, while others were anti-lockdown agitators.
No community members were injured on Tuesday but one television reporter was attacked multiple times.
Three police were also injured, including one officer hit in the shin by a rock.
Police deployed pepper spray, foam batons and smoke bombs to control the crowd.
Rubber bullets were also used.
Police intelligence suggests there will be repeat protests on Wednesday.
Mr Patton urged people to stay away.
He said police had struggled with the “really challenging” clash despite 500 additional officers being called into the city.
“Any police force would have been challenged by the spontaneity and the sheer massive numbers we saw involved with this group and the tactics that they employed throughout the day,” he told reporters.
Footage showed police units being forced to retreat as property and vehicles were damaged, triggering law enforcement to open fire with rubber bullets, foam batons and smoke rounds.
“These crowd control equipment munitions were necessary and they are necessary because we can’t allow this type of conduct to go on,” the top cop told reporters.
“This protest is still unfolding and we’re confronting and making arrests as we stand here at this moment.
“Those investigations have already started to hold people to account for their conduct and they will continue on in the days to come.”
The rally circled the CBD for a number of hours before slowly moving on to the West Gate Bridge, where hundreds remained defiantly on Tuesday night.
Earlier, a Channel 7 reporter was attacked and sprayed with what he believed was urine.
Reporter Paul Dowsley was covering the second day of protests as demonstrators marched from CFMEU headquarters to Parliament House.
Dowsley and his cameraman were set upon by an angry mob as they made their way past towards Parliament House, he said during a live cross with the 7 News studio just after the incident.
“There was a group there who certainly targeted us a few minutes ago,” he said.
“We were standing on a seat trying to get an elevated view as the protest group walked past.
“A few in that crowd had it in for mainstream media. A man came from the side, grabbed me around the neck and others then joined in and a scuffle.
“The outcome of that was Rick, my cameraman colleague, and myself, now being covered in what I believe is urine.
“I believe that this has been thrown in my mouth, it’s all over me.”
Originally published as Police fire rubber bullets on crowd as Melbourne protests descends into violence
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