It remains unclear whether police will be issuing fines to protesters for breaching social distancing restrictions.
Victoria Police Northwest Metropolitan Region Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius has addressed the Black Lives Matter rally expected to bring thousands of Melburnians to the CBD this Saturday in a press conference this morning.
“We want to be very clear in saying that Victoria Police understands and acknowledges the anger and frustration people feel about the events taking place overseas,” he said.
“We do respect the right that everyone has to protest peacefully and lawfully and, in doing so, particularly at this time during the COVID emergency, we must ask people to pay particular regard to the Chief Health Officer’s directions that are in place in Victoria.”
“We are very concerned, of course, that gatherings in large numbers bring with it particular risks,” he said.
When asked several times to clarify whether Victoria Police will be issuing fines to protesters for breaching social distancing restrictions, Cornelius said that police will use their discretion on the day.
“How we choose to enforce breaches of the law are always a matter of police discretion,” he said. “With protests that have happened today, there have been occasions where we’ve fined people and there have certainly been occasions where we have not.”
“The bottom line for us is if anyone is faced with a choice between abiding by the law or breaking the law, of course the police would prefer that people obey the law,” he added.
Cornelius also warned that there will be “a strong and dedicated police presence in order to maintain public safety” and that violent and hateful behaviour, especially directed towards police, will not be tolerated.
Victoria Police have urged anyone considering taking part in the protest this weekend to reconsider, warning that it could cause a COVID-19 outbreak or contribute to a spike in community transmissions.
“Saturday presents as a real potential tipping point,” said Cornelius. “I’m taking the opportunity here today that [the Chief Health Officer’s] directions and that advice stands and I’d urge members of the community to have regard to that.”
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#BlackLivesMatter Solidarity and Stop Black Deaths In Custody Protest Essentials! Make sure if you’re attending the actions on unceeded Kulin lands or in Meanjin (Brisbane) that you are prepared and ready for the front line. Melbourne, 6th of June 2pm at Parliament House Steps Meanjin, 6th of June 1pm King George Square #ACAB #FTP #NOJUSTICENOPEACE #BLM #
The Stop Black Deaths in Custody rally is happening on Saturday June 6 from 2pm and will meet at Parliament House steps at 1 Spring Street, Melbourne CBD. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.
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