Victoria police have opened fire with rubber bullets on demonstrators protesting Covid-19 vaccinations in the city of Melbourne in an attempt to disperse an angry mob, some of whom were decked out in body armor and helmets.

On Wednesday, the third day of protests against a vaccine mandate for construction workers in the Australian city of Melbourne, hundreds of demonstrators made camp at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Earlier in the day they had marched through the city center chanting “every day, every day, every day.”  

#Australia Melbourne “ Everyday,everyday,everyday!” 22/09/2021

Victoria police had earlier declared a no-fly zone over the city center, suggesting media footage would give the protesters intelligence that could help them avoid the police.

The mob chanted “lest we forget” as they marched on the sacred monument which was built in remembrance of those who served and died in the First World War. Others called on the police not to confront them out of “respect for the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).”

The shrine, just south of the city’s central business district, had been surrounded by police officers from around 3pm, leading to a near-three-hour standoff with protesters.

With protesters proceeding to throw rocks and stones at the riot police who encircled them, the authorities’ patience ran out. Shortly before 5pm, officers called on everybody to leave the shrine through a small gap they had made in their own line. 

#DEVELOPING: Vic Police officers move in and begin to detain protesters occupying the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. (*language warning*). Pool pics courtesy of Sky News.

With many protesters remaining, the police advanced on the demonstrators, unleashing tear gas, firing rubber bullets and making arrests. Some scenes appear distressing, with protesters fleeing and hiding behind walls to avoid being shot at by the advancing police line. 

Police firing at protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance in Victoria.

Later videos suggest the authorities’ tactics were successful, with the shrine seemingly under their control and no demonstrators in sight. 

Anti-#lockdown protest now over after police overwhelm remaining protesters at #Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

The Returned & Services League Victoria (RSL) blasted the protest, claiming the shrine was “sacred, not a space of protest”. “Under no circumstances, ever, should the Shrine be a place of protest,” an RSL spokesperson said in a statement.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews also condemned the protest, noting that many of the people present were not from the building profession. He described the week’s demonstrations as an insult to builders, who work to create and not to wreck things. 

Andrews reiterated the need for vaccinations in the building industry, noting the comparatively high case numbers. “There are more cases of coronavirus in the construction sector than there are patients with coronavirus in hospitals across the whole hospital system,” he stated.

Protesters had also clashed with police on Tuesday, with law enforcement vehicles trashed and bottles thrown, as they chanted their opposition to the vaccine mandate.

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