Shepparton News

Aiming to stop protesters



MELBOURNE: Public transport will be suspended this weekend to prevent protesters travelling to Melbourne’s CBD for an antilockdo­wn rally.

Victoria Police Chief Commission­er Shane Patton has announced public transport into the city will be shut down from 8 am to 2 pm on Saturday, the day of a worldwide series of ‘‘freedom’’ rallies.

Buses will be directed to bypass the city, trams stopped before returning to their junctions and trains turned back.

While acknowledg­ing the move will inconvenie­nce some, Mr Patton said it was designed to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes in last month’s anti-lockdown protest and a potential COVID-19 supersprea­der event.

‘‘This is a significan­t step for us,’’ he told reporters on Wednesday.

‘‘We did not take this lightly. We didn’t do it last time. But given the circumstan­ces of where we are with the spread of the Delta variant . . . we can’t afford to allow the transmissi­on of the virus.’’

The decision to temporaril­y shut down the network was made in collaborat­ion with Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, the Department of Health and the Victorian Government.

Emergency and essential workers will still be able to travel into the city to get to their jobs, with police still finalising alternativ­e transport such as buses.

Barricades, traffic checkpoint­s and roving patrols will also complement police efforts to keep protesters out of the city.

‘‘An Uber or taxi is not just going to be permitted to wander into the city,’’ Mr Patton said.

‘‘If there’s a need that a worker has required . . . an Uber or a taxi, we would make sure that their identifica­tion is correct.’’

Protesters that manage to slip into the city undetected can expect to be arrested and fined $5500 for breaching public health orders.

Some 2000 officers will be deployed as part of Saturday’s operation, double the number used for the August 21 protest.

‘‘This will be one of our largest operations we’ve conducted, I think, since the World Economic Forum many years ago,’’ Mr Patton said.

‘‘This is the biggest game in town for us — to stop this occurring.’’

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