More than 2,000 police officers will be ready for scores of anti-lockdown protesters planning to storm Melbourne’s CBD from 12pm on Saturday.
Officers were out in full force on Saturday morning setting up a series of roadblocks on the outskirts of the city.
And despite the closure of Victoria’s public transport network from 8am-2pm – as well as the threat of $5,500 fines for unlawful entry into the CBD – protest organisers have confirmed the march will go ahead.
‘With all Victorians best interests in mind we will be announcing a new location from 12pm,’ a protesters’ message read on social media.
‘The new location will be announced via our website and Telegram channel so stay tuned and look out for updates.’
The Melbourne Freedom group have since stated the location of the protest from 12pm will be at the corner of Bridge Rd and Swan St in Richmond – although this could be a deliberate ploy to confuse police.
Public transport will be temporarily shut for six hours to thwart protesters planning to attend another anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne’s CBD this Saturday
Police will be out in force in Victoria’s CBD on Saturday ahead of another planned anti-lockdown protest (pictured, police operating a roadblock on Saturday morning)
More than 2000 police officers will be in Melbourne’s CBD ahead of a planned anti-lockdown protest from 12pm on Saturday
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police would be patrolling trains to ensure commuters had legitimate reasons to disembark.
The development comes as Ballarat re-entered another lockdown after a surge of cases in regional Victoria, with fears a large number of people gathering could worsen the state’s outbreak.
‘The risk is so great from a convergence of thousands of people, as we saw recently,’ Mr Patton told the Herald Sun.
With more than 2,000 officers on hand in the CBD, 20 police stations will be closed to the public as law enforcement are pulled away from their daily duties to assist in the major operation.
Police will also be highly visible on public transport and have the right to issue fines of $5500 for unlawful entry to the CBD (pictured, a roadblock near Melbourne’s CBD)
Buses, trams and trains will be stopped from entering the CBD in an effort to prevent unlawful access to Melbourne CBD (pictured operating the roadblock early on Saturday)
Police were out on Saturday morning across Victoria conducting a series of roadblocks (pictured)
‘We realise people are fatigued and this is a significant step for us. We didn’t take this lightly but given the circumstances and where we are with Covid, we cannot afford to allow transmission to occur,’ Patton said.
‘We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.’
Trams have ceased operating entirely, while buses will bypass the city and trains will be barred completely from entering the CBD until 2pm.
Ubers and taxis will be slapped with travel restrictions preventing them from entering the city unless passenger’s have an essential reason.
A hard border surrounding the CBD has been established with barricades, traffic blocks and an increased police presence to block protesters from unlawfully gathering.
Essential workers who are required to travel will still be able to enter the city but need to carry their workers permit to gain access.
Trains have been stopped in Melbourne in a bid to halt numbers from the planned protest (pictured, a deserted Flinders St Station)
Protestors will be fined $5500 by police if they enter Melbourne’s CBD unlawfully (pictured, police ahead of the planned march)
More than 2,000 Victorian Police officers will be deployed for the major operation with Chief Commissioner Shane Patton ‘planning for the worst and hoping for the best’ (pictured, residents rally through Melbourne streets in August)
In Sydney, NSW police have promised an equally ‘highly visible’ operation to prevent protesters from gathering in large numbers for another march.
Metropolitan Field Operations deputy commissioner Mal Lanyon also said police would be ready to respond to any last-minute location changes.
‘We are continuing to monitor online commentary and have put in place an extremely mobile police operation with significant resources, to respond to whatever situation we are faced with,’ he said.
Victoria Chief Commissioner Patton warned there would be a heavy police presence and urged people not to bother turning up in a bid to stop protesters and avoid ‘any confrontation at all’.
The heavy-handed measures come just weeks after Patton labelled the August 21 protests as ‘one of the most violent the city has seen in 20 years’.
Officers had no choice but to use non-lethal weapons to defend themselves from an angry mob that came armed and appeared intent on attacking them.
NSW Policev(pictured) will also be out in force ahead of a separate anti-lockdown protest planned for Saturday afternoon
The riot squad (pictured) were spotted on Saturday morning in Sydney on the outskirts of the CBD
Police were at Sydney Park on Saturday (pictured) ahead of another expected anti-lockdown march
Fines of $5500 will be issued by NSW police if residents are unlawfully in the CBD
Police from the Eastern Beaches LAC (pictured) will be ready to combat anti-lockdown protestors on Saturday
Tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets were used on demonstrators in Melbourne and more than 200 people were arrested after the anti-lockdown rally descended into a riot.
More than 4,000 people turned up to the ‘freedom rally’ despite Premier Dan Andrews warning the state was on the verge of a Covid catastrophe.
The protests resulted in six officers being hospitalised – including two with suspected broken noses, one with a broken thumb and the others with concussions.
Victoria recorded 423 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 4,038
Mr Patton said he hoped officers would not have to use crowd control equipment such as capsicum spray and rubber bullets this Saturday but assured all police had nonlethal options on hand to prevent any violence.
Victorians have already spent an agonising 226 days in lockdown since the pandemic began with fears it could continue well into Christmas.
Residents have lived through the toughest lockdown measures in Australia, with other states choosing not to close local playgrounds and skate parks or impose curfews.
Other draconian rules such as only one parent accompanying children to playgrounds and eating being prohibited at the community venues have only been implemented in Victoria.