No-fly zone over Melbourne as tense Shrine of Remembrance standoff continues

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The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has grounded aircraft above Melbourne’s inner city unless they have police approval, in a move that will prevent media from using helicopters to cover anti-lockdown protests from the sky.

The restriction, which was made at the request of Victoria Police, is effective for the next five days and applies to a height of 2500 feet.

It was made a short time before police fired non-lethal rounds into a crowd of up to 1000 anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine mandate protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Riot police surrounded protesters at the shrine, but kept their distance in a stand-off that lasted for a few hours before police began to make arrests.

It is the third day of protests in Melbourne, which began with a demonstration on Monday to oppose an order from the Chief Health Officer that construction workers must receive a vaccine to work.

On Tuesday, the protest swelled to a group of thousands – including many far-right activists – who rampaged across the city and resulted in several violent scenes.

Police surround protesters at the Shrine.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Wednesday’s protests were significantly smaller and less unruly.

Members of the protest group at the Shrine periodically chanted a mix of anti-vaccine slogans and invective at Premier Daniel Andrews, as well as singing the national anthem, holding a minute’s silence for people who have died by suicide in the pandemic and at one stage taking a knee in front of police officers.

Some protesters chanted “freedom”, “every day” and at one point the chorus of John Farnham’s You’re the Voice. Police offered protesters safe passage to leave until about 3pm, when armed crews and police horses began to move in.

Police eventually began to remove some protesters at about 3.30pm, while encouraging others to leave peacefully.

Earlier, scattered groups of protesters engaged in a game of cat and mouse with Victorian riot police throughout Wednesday morning, as protest action continued in Melbourne for a third day.

Riot police blocking Melbourne’s Elizabeth Street this morning.Credit:Erin Pearson

Police pursued small and seemingly disorganised groups of protesters, who marched along several CBD streets including Elizabeth, Flinders and Queen streets, blocking traffic as they walked.

A handful of arrests were made as members of Victoria Police’s Public Order Response and Critical Incident Response teams converged on the city in a show of force, stopping people who attempted to enter the CBD and checking their identification.

Several hundred people marched south along Swanston Walk and St Kilda Road. There were chants of “f— the jab” and “f— Dan Andrews”.

By early afternoon, protesters were growing in numbers near the Melbourne headquarters of the CFMEU, north of the Queen Victoria Market, where there was also a large police presence.

The construction union’s office windows have been boarded over after protesters, enraged by the state government mandating of COVID-19 vaccination for those employed in the building sector, gathered there on Monday, throwing projectiles including bottles.

Police surrounded protesters at the Shrine.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Victorian construction union leader John Setka said any CFMEU members found to have participated in violent protests would be expelled from the union.

“Let me tell you, people that were involved in the violent protest, they may as well go pick fruit in Mildura somewhere because they will not be working in our industry,” he told ABC radio Wednesday morning.

Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the protests and said Victoria Police would “take action against those who did the wrong thing yesterday”.

“They’re not there to protest; they’re there for a fight.”

Mr Andrews said that despite a few thousand people choosing to protest, about 90,000 people got vaccinated on Tuesday.

“That’s the more important number. They know that the way out of this is not violence, it’s vaccination,” he said.

The Andrews government has shut the state’s construction industry for two weeks, blaming low COVID-safe compliance at building sites. There are more than 330 active cases across the sector.

Protesters sit on the steps of the Shrine.Credit:Erin Pearson

Prime Minister condemned the protests from Washington, DC.

“None of us are above the law,” Mr Morrison said.

“These are measures that we have seen in other states and when it comes to the construction sector and the outbreak, similar arrangements were put in place in NSW and I think it is very important, that we exercise that patience, and we get through what is a very difficult time.”

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