What do we know about the protests in Melbourne and how has their number increased? | Victoria


The two-day protests in Melbourne that turned violent again on Tuesday afternoon began with construction workers rejecting vaccination warrants but were later spurred on by anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination groups on the networks social, experts said.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Construction, Forestry, Marine, Mines and Energy Union (CFMEU) on Monday to protest against the vaccination warrants, and it is understood that the number increased after anti-lockdown Telegram groups launched the call.

Politicians and union leaders, including CFMEU branch secretary John Setka and former Labor leader Bill Shorten, accused far-right groups of being behind the protest and violence which followed. Shorten called the protesters “Nazi baby-man.”

But when protesters returned on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews closed the area for two weeks, it was unclear who had organized the protest and who was joining it.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the protest was “called, directed and promoted” by anti-vaccination and far-right groups.

“What they’re doing is jumping on it to cause division and, in the end, that’s going to lead to a situation where we’re locked in for longer,” she said.

“People can either play a role of uniting people and bringing us to the other side, or they can sow lies, hatred and division. Unfortunately, that is what some of these extremists are doing.

CFMEU’s National General Division and Construction Secretary Dave Noonan told the ABC on Tuesday that high-visibility gear is being distributed to people to make them look like construction workers.

“This is really a group of right-wing extremists who have really tried to decide to divide the community when we are in immense tension and under immense pressure through the health crisis due to Covid, but also with people who are naturally upset, shaken and overwhelmed. repeated lockdowns, ”he said.

Elise Thomas, analyst and researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue specializing in disinformation, said anti-lockdown groups were clearly taking the lead on Tuesday.

“I think there is an organizational difference between yesterday’s and today’s protest, as today the protest was obviously promoted by a whole bunch of different anti-containment groups. .

“I am not aware of any solid evidence to suggest that organized far-right groups were involved in the planning of the protest. [on Monday]. I feel like the protest started in another way, probably offline, and then rolled over to Telegram’s large anti-lockdown groups around 10 a.m. “

Thomas said it was difficult to make a clear distinction between people from anti-containment groups and construction workers.

“There is no clear binary between traders and anti-containment or conspiracy groups, there are clearly people who are both,” Thomas said.

Tom Tanuki, an anti-fascist activist and researcher, agreed.

“I think it has to be said that a lot of them were also people in the construction industry, or related… There are non-union construction people there. There are anti-vaccines that dress in thematic hi-vis out there. It’s a real mixed bag.

Construction sites have been the source of more than 330 cases of Covid-19 in the current Delta strain outbreak in Melbourne, but also a source of growing disaffection among workers over the restrictions put in place to contain the epidemics.

Construction workers set up tables and chairs in the middle of the road in Melbourne last week to protest being denied access to their tea rooms.

Posters of protests targeting the construction industry have circulated among anti-lockdown Telegram groups. One of the largest dedicated to Melbourne encouraged people to show up for Monday’s protest and urged attendees to wear high visibility whether or not they work in the industry.

As suggested by the leadership of Tuesday’s protest – which made two city tours from CFMEU in parliament to Flinders Street station before heading towards West Gate Bridge – the movement currently lacks any clear organization.

However, it is much clearer how the message spread – on Telegram groups and, most importantly, on Facebook.

A Facebook livestream from Monday’s protest drew 30,000 viewers at one point. On Tuesday, it reached 70,000 simultaneous viewers.

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Some in the crowd certainly seemed to have far-right sympathies. There is one who identified himself as a proud boy, someone who complained about the New World Order while wearing a Donald Trump hat, two Trump flags were waved by people in high visibility, and a former United Patriots Front member was seen in the crowd on the West Gate Bridge.

But for the most part, the thousands of people who gathered were not identifiable with any political group or message other than being anti-Daniel Andrews and mandatory anti-vaccination.

Some said they had been members of CFMEU for decades, others were clearly young tradespeople. Some hi-vis gear had cement stains, others appeared to be wearing it for the first time. Many were keen to stress that they had no connection with the far right.

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Tanuki said it was far too straightforward to label those attending the protests as neo-Nazis or far-right agitators.

“I don’t agree with Setka who says they’re all ‘neo-Nazis’, that’s stupid or sloppy or inaccurate. But they are sent by anti-vaccines; that’s what they are. And their immersion in the anti-containment scene makes them predisposed to manipulation by many of these influencers … some of whom are neo-Nazis. “

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