No longer unlawful but signs taken down

Victoria Police say protests are no longer unlawful but banners hung above major roads in Melbourne promoting an anti-lockdown rally at the Shrine of Remembrance have been removed.

The Department of Transport quickly removed two banners attached to pedestrian overpasses above Dandenong Road at St Kilda East on Thursday morning.

Another banner found hanging above Bell Street at Preston in the city’s inner north was also taken down.

The banners were removed because they were erected on public infrastructure and could become a distraction for motorists.

They read “Rally at the Shrine!! October 23rd”.

The event, also promoted on Facebook, has at least 1300 people interested in attending.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said protesting was no longer unlawful under Melbourne’s coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s a human right and we’re now operating in a context where the chief health officer directions do allow people to leave home for recreation and for socialising, and people can choose if they want to, while they’re doing that, to also voice protest,” he said.

“But whether you’re protesting at home, whether you’re protesting down at your local park, whether you’re protesting at the shrine, you must comply with the chief health officer directions about public gatherings.

“The public gathering rules are very clear in Melbourne metro, including the shrine.

“That is groups of no more than 10, comprised of no more than two households, socially distanced, 1.5m within the group, wearing a mask if you’re not eating or drinking or you have a medical exemption for not having a mask, and no further than 25km from your home.”

Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said anyone who turned up at the shrine, or any other location to protest, and was in breach of the rules should expect to be fined.

“Whether you’re protesting, whether you’re just going for a jog or whether you’re having a picnic, make sure you comply with the chief health officer directions,” he said.

“Because if you don’t, and we observe you in breach, we will hold you to account.”

Organisers said the aim of the protest was to end Melbourne’s lockdown and force Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to resign.

“Restore our freedoms now,” the event website says.

“Stick to the plan Dan: Delays, empty promises and another week (or more) of heartbreak for small businesses. The restrictions easing are a joke.”

But RSL Victoria has urged people not to protest at the shrine.

“It is RSL Victoria’s position that Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is a sacred place, of critical importance to the current and ex-service members of our community, for commemorating service and for the remembrance of those who have died performing their patriotic duty,” it said in a statement.

“Under no circumstances, ever, should the shrine be a place of protest.”

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