Herald Sun


- DAVID HURLEY AND ELLEN WHINNETT Protesters rally at Flinders St station against the closure of indigenous communitie­s. Pictures: JAKE NOWAKOWSKI david.hurley@news.com.au Twitter: @davidhurle­yHS

PROTESTERS brought Melbourne CBD to a standstill last night with hundreds of thousands of workers facing a nightmare commute home after Flinders St was shut down.

Around 4000 protesters chanting about indigenous rights started their protest at 4pm and continued to rally through the evening rush hour, causing chaos in the city.

Tram services faced massive disruption­s with commuters struggling to find a way home.

Protesters marched through the city via Bourke St before settling at the junction of Flinders St and Swanston St shortly after 5pm.

While commuters were able to pass into the train station, people trying to use trams and cars faced long delays.

The protest was organised by a group called Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle criticised the protesters, saying they were being “self-indulgent”.

“What a great way to gain sympathy to your cause: by disadvanta­ging and inconvenie­ncing hundreds of thousands of people just trying to get home at the end of the week,’’ Cr Doyle said.

“As always, protest is legitimate but surely not when it impacts so unfairly on so many people.” After the protesters arrived in Flinders St hundreds sat down on the road and tram tracks while several speeches were made.

Police were out in force, blocking off sections of Flinders St to traffic and ensuring commuters could get into the train station.

Officers monitored the rally but showed no sign of trying to move the protesters on.

A spokeswoma­n for Victoria Police said the rally was “peaceful”.

Commuter Jon Forbes, 38, who was trying to catch a tram to St Kilda from the CBD, said: “It is selfish to do this on a Friday afternoon when people just want to get home after a long week of work.

“People have the right to protest but it would surely be fairer for everybody if they held it on a weekend.”

Kate Hutchinson, 23, who was struggling to get to Brunswick, said: “It’s a joke.

“People just want to get to where they are going on a Friday and a bunch of selfish people are stopping thousands of people from doing that.”

The rally came six days after ugly scenes played out at Federation Square where antiIslam and anti-racism protesters clashed.

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance stated it was holding the rally to protest against

“the forced closure of Aboriginal communitie­s”.

Steve Jolly, a member of the Socialist Party and a councillor at the City of Yarra, told the Herald Sun he supported the protest.

“There was a lot of support for it,” he said.

“The whole point of a protest is about being inconvenie­nt.

“You need to do that to get your point across. You need to do it at a time when you get the most attention.

“If you did it 10am on a Sunday nobody is going to see it.”

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