For the second day in a row, Melbourne protests opposing mandatory vaccination and the shutdown of Victoria’s construction sector have decayed into violence. Construction workers attended the Victorian capital to voice their displeasure at the recent industry shutdown, calling on the government and unions to do better. Similar to what was seen on Monday, the demonstration quickly turned ugly when several members of the 2,000-strong crowd began hurling bottles at police and setting off flares.
The protests came in response to the state government mandating vaccinations for workers, in light of the growing Delta variant concerns. Throughout the pandemic, the construction industry has been among the few sectors that have largely stayed open in Victoria, however, authorities have become increasingly concerned that it may be a catalyst for coronavirus transmission. As a result, the government made the decision on Monday to shut the sector down for two weeks, prompting a widespread reaction.
Images show the violent nature of the demonstration, with officers in riot gear firing rubber bullets and using pepper spray. At least 44 people were arrested, however, reports suggest not all protestors were members of the construction industry. The union representing construction workers has distanced itself from the protests, saying they were “heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremist groups.”
In a statement, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the actions of protestors, labelling it as “terrible behaviour”.
“Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of Covid — in fact it only helps the virus to spread. Thank you to the brave men and women of Victoria Police for their work today — and every day — to keep our community safe,” the premier said. “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.”
Victorian officials have warned that further demonstrations may continue, with protestors promising to keep protesting until their demands are met.