A man wearing military medals who begged protesters clambering on Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance to get off and respect fallen diggers was later fined by police – only for them to admit they got it wrong.
The man, dressed in a suit and with the medals pinned to his chest, asked for a microphone to address the group on Wednesday afternoon while police surrounded the memorial.
While he said he generally supported the group’s right to protest, the man pleaded with protesters to ‘respect the shrine’ and ‘stand down’.
‘I’m here by myself, the only thing I’m asking is can you respect the shrine? Can you stand down from there please?,’ he begged.
‘Everyone’s entitled to their own peace and to do what they do. All I’m asking is you respect the soldiers. Can you please just respect the soldiers and the fallen.’
Footage from protesters shows the man being led away by police, with Victoria Police confirming to Daily Mail Australia they believed the man had been wrongfully fined by officers.
‘Victoria Police is aware that a 40-year-old West Melbourne man was issued a fine at yesterday’s protest at the Shrine of Remembrance,’ a spokeswoman said.
‘We are making further enquiries into the circumstances in which he was fined. If it is confirmed he was not there as part of the protest, which appears to be the case, it is highly likely that his fine will be withdrawn.’
The man, wearing a suit with what appears to be war medals pinned to his breast, asked for a microphone to address the group as they gathered outside the Shrine of Remembrance – but was not part of the protest
Protesters waved flags as they marched on the war memorial which was set up to honour fallen soldiers in First World War – much to the horror of veterans group across Australia
The memorial was left scattered with rubbish and the protesters’ belongings on Wednesday as they beat a hasty retreat when armed police pushed forward, firing on those who tried to stand their ground.
‘Frankly I’m speechless and appalled. I cannot comprehend the selfishness who have come to this sacred place and do this,’ Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Dean Lee said.
‘It’s outrageous, it’s reprehensible and it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever witnessed at the Shrine of Remembrance.’
The memorial boss also claimed protesters urinated on the shrine during the rally.
‘I was appalled at their behaviour,’ Mr Lee told the Today show.
‘I saw it as entirely selfish and disrespectful to the memory of what our Australian men and women have done for our Defence Force.’
The sacred building, which honours Australian men and women who have served in the defence force, was the site of the latest demonstration, with a man pleading with people to ‘respect the shrine’ and ‘stand down’
Mr Lee said his first instinct after the crowd dispersed was to inspect the memorial for damage.
‘I will acknowledge the protestors caused no damage to the memorial and for that I am grateful,’ he said.
‘But there was broken glass, there was rubbish, there was urination, there was beer cans, it was just everything that this place does not represent and should not be.’
Members from the nearby Hawthorn RSL came to the Shrine later on Wednesday night to help clean up the area.
The protesters, who had been rallying for three days to demand an end to mandatory vaccinations for construction workers, chanted ‘lest we forget’ and the national anthem – before throwing rocks at the cops, leading riot police to clear the site by firing rubber bullets and firing gas grenades.
‘Lest we forget’ is a phrase used in the oath of remembrance which is solemnly spoken at ceremonies – including the annual Anzac Day ceremony – held at the Shrine and other war memorials.
Police arrested more 215 people at Wednesday’s protest. Tap handles, golf balls and batteries were thrown at police, according to Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther.
Two police sustained head injuries after being pelted with bottles.
Footage from protesters shows the man being led away by police, with Victoria Police confirming to Daily Mail Australia they believed the man had been wrongfully fined by officers
The man wearing military medals who attended Melbourne’s protest at the Shrine of Remembrance was fined by police – only for them to admit they got it wrong
Vietnam Veterans Association Victorian state president Bob Elworthy said the ‘unedifying’ protest that unfolded was ‘one of the most un-Australian things’ he’d ever seen.
‘I just cant believe these people thought it was right to go to a place like the shrine and carry on that,’ he told 3AW.
‘I wonder if they would go to their own grandparent’s grave and drink beer on it.
‘This mob of idiots have no moral fiber at all. If they’re going to do that on the shrine, goodness knows where else they’re going to do it.’
Former Australian Army veteran Senator Jaquie Lambie also on Thursday morning launched into an angry tirade at the protesters, who she described as an embarrassment.
‘I can tell you now for those who have served, for those who have serving they are absolutely disgusted,’ the outspoken federal senator fumed on the Today show on Thursday.
The man wearing medals attempted to reason with the group before they desecrated the Victorian war memorial on Wednesday
‘To walk on that Shrine, to walk on that sacred ground and drop your cigarettes and your beer cans all over the place and to do what you did is absolutely a whole new low for you people.’
The protests initially began in opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms, but have since turned into wider unrest after the state government shut down the industry for two weeks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said those involved should be ashamed of their ‘disgraceful’ behaviour.
‘Those scenes were disgraceful and the conduct was disgraceful,’ he told reporters in Washington.
‘This is a sacred place, it is not a place of protest. It dishonoured those Australians who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.
‘I would hope all who engaged in that disgraceful behaviour would be ashamed.’
Protesters set up camp at Melbourne’s war memorial in the hope police wouldn’t fire on them out of respect for fallen Anzacs