By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Victoria Police has taken aim at “selfish” and “foolish” lockdown protesters trying to dress up their disobedience as “exercise”.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius served a message to Dandenong protesters, who have gathered daily about 5pm since Monday 24 August – as well as those behind a proposed rally in the CBD in early September.
In the Dandenong South protests, police have arrested nine men and issued 38 fines of $1652.
He said the protests were exposing the community to danger and wasting police resources. It was illegal to leave home to protest. Participants would continue to be fined and “brought to account”.
“Please don’t try and dress your behaviour up as exercise,” Asst Comm Cornelius said.
“We all know it’s not, so stop playing us and the wider community for fools.”
“Just for one moment, stop thinking about yourself but spare a thought for the loved ones of nearly 500 Victorians who have died so far (due to Covid-19).
“Stay at home and stop the spread.”
A 76-year-old Windsor man was charged with incitement over the promotion of a Melbourne CBD rally on 5 September.
Asst Comm Cornelius warned that police were monitoring social media in the search for further organisers.
He pointed at groups against 5G and masks, as well as “anti-vaxers” behind the movement.
“The tin-foil hat-wearing brigade are alive and well out there in our community.
“They’re taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their own ridiculous notions about so-called sovereign citizens, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids.
“It’s bat-shit crazy nonsense, and people need to wake up to themselves.
“The wider community is awake up to you and you need to stop it.”
Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti has called for “calm and compliance” from residents in response to daily anti-lockdown protests.
His statement issued on 27 August was headed “Dandenong Protests” – a backdown from his assertion days earlier that the mass gatherings were not protests.
“I understand that people may be acting out of a sense of frustration with the current lockdown, but I urge them all to exercise, if they must, in complete compliance with the current restrictions in place.
“We must all accept that we are in this together and that we will only maintain the positive improvements that have been achieved by Victorians, if we all adhere to the restrictions.
“We have just over two weeks to go before these will be reviewed and it is important that we all stick together and see this challenging period through to the end.”
Cr Memeti said the council was working with police and community leaders to encourage protesters to “reconsider their actions and work towards a more positive outcome”.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams have also called for compliance.
Ms Williams said it was also important to ensure access to “accurate information”.
“Unfortunately there has been a lot of deliberate misinformation being circulated.
“It’s important people only take advice from properly informed and credible sources, such as DHHS and the Chief Health Officer.”
The 3175 postcode, which includes Dandenong and Dandenong South, is the South-East’s Covid hotspot.
However, active cases have dramatically dropped in recent weeks. As of 28 August, there were 77 active cases, down from 137 two weeks ago.