A massive group of protesters gathered in Melbourne’s CBD spouting pro-Trump slogans and calling for Premier Daniel Andrews to be sacked, amid heated debate around mandatory vaccines and mounting frustration towards the state government.
The group, estimated to be over 1000, gathered outside Victorian parliament on Saturday, protesting forced Covid vaccines, ongoing restrictions for the unvaccinated, and controversial new pandemic laws.
Protesters could be heard shouting “kill the bill” in reference to laws controversially rushed through the lower house earlier this week.
The laws would give the premier power to declare a pandemic for three months at a time and allow Health Minister Martin Foley to sign off on public health orders without the approval of the chief health officer, and are set to replace the state of emergency powers in December.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Labor MPs have been subject to intense criticism over the legislation, which critics claim would give their government unprecedented power.
The state this month also mandated the Covid vaccine for dozens of sectors, with Andrews telling millions of Victorians they would have to get vaccinated if they wanted to continue working.
Authorised workers must be fully vaccinated by November 26.
The vaccine mandate has since been extended to social settings in Victoria, with harsh restrictions stopping the unvaccinated from entering restaurants, bars and events.
“This is critically important to keep case numbers down,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is not about stopping people going to work, it’s about making sure we can open up.
“It’s about making sure people can go to work, that they can be safe, and that we can defend and deliver our road map for opening.”
But angry protesters frustrated with the rules flocked to the streets on Saturday, armed with signs that read “Sack Dan” and “Stop the Bill”.
Other signs bizarrely denied Covid was real and played into issues around the “long term health effects” of the vaccine.
People in the crowd could be heard calling the Premier a “lunatic” and “delusional” and chanting “save our children, save our future”.
A number of police were seen walking beside the crowd as they made their way through parks and city streets.
The smaller presence from police was in stark contrast to violent protests over September and October which saw protesters violently clash with police on the streets during lockdown.
Photos at Saturday’s protest showed police arrest one protester after he jumped on a police vehicle, while protesters surrounded one officer and pushed and shoved him.
It’s unclear if there were any other arrests.
Victorian independent Catherine Cumming was photographed leading the crowd, chanting “sack Dan Andrews” and “vote them out” alongside other protesters.
She is not the first Victorian state politician to be seen at an anti-government rally, with Liberal Democrats’ MP David Limbrick attending anti-lockdown rallies this year.
Earlier this month, Mr Limbrick and fellow Liberal Democrat Tim Quilty refused to hand over their vaccination records, claiming the rule, which ultimately had them barred from entering parliament, was “undemocratic”.
Liberal Neil Angus in parliament this month also shared his personal concern about the vaccine, and said the safety of the vaccine needed to be questioned.
“Victoria will become a two-tier society. Unvaccinated people will be sacked from their jobs and will be excluded from the ordinary functioning of society,” he said this month.