At a mandated vaccine protest, riot police clashed with construction workers.
A demonstration against mandated vaccinations in the construction industry devolved into violence after riot police battled with tradies. Late in the afternoon, water bottles and bread cartons were purportedly thrown and flares lit.
A rally against obligatory vaccines has devolved into violence outside the Melbourne offices of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
Hundreds of construction workers and union members, dressed in high-vis and without masks, gathered on Elizabeth St in the city on Monday morning, pleading with the union to protect the workforce.
John Setka, state secretary of the CFMEU, attempted to calm the enraged throng, which was addressing him as "Dan Andrews' b****."
"Please, everyone, calm down," he yelled. "I am open to hearing from anyone."
However, his pleas were ignored, with horrifying social media footage showing tradies shouting over union leaders protecting the door before being pelted with water bottles and bread crates.
Punches and kicks were allegedly hurled, with one individual allegedly armed with a loud speaker, striking workers attempting to force their way inside the premises.
However, the march devolved into violence later in the afternoon, as demonstrators were hemmed in by two lines of police in an attempt to prevent anyone from entering the CMFEU building or joining the mob, which was growing increasingly frustrated.
Riot police were quickly dispatched to attempt to disperse the group, which had swelled in size, with reports of anti-vaxxers from outlying areas showing up to support members of the construction industry.
Just after 5 p.m., the front door of the office was bashed in, objects were launched at members, and flares were lighted.
Workers on the inside attempted to disperse the enraged mob by spraying water from hoses through the damaged entry's holes.
Later, police were able to force protestors back, allowing those locked inside to flee.
Earlier in the morning, protesters could be heard screaming "stand up or stand down," with a number of police officers observing the throng.
Tensions gradually subsided, with CFMEU members closing the doors and tradespeople clapping as they walked out.
Members have reportedly vowed that they will return "daily" until their appeals are heard.
The event, called "Melbourne Freedom Rally," is thought to have been organized by the same group that was involved in earlier demonstrations in the city.
Construction workers must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday to remain on the job.
Tea and break rooms were also banned last week after Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton warned they had become "one of the most dangerous sites" for coronavirus transmission in a workplace.
On Friday, a similar but calm protest took place, with tradespeople setting up tables and seats on tram lines during their lunch breaks.
Premier Daniel Andrews cautioned that he did not want to shut down the construction industry following the discovery of a number of diseases related to work sites in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
"I would simply state that protests are ineffective in combating this infection. "Protests are not intelligent, they are not safe," he stated during his COVID-19 press conference on Monday.
"This industry is 25% open" (capacity). We want to get it to between 50% and 57%. Vaccination is a critical component of that."
He stated that the limits were implemented to ensure the construction sector operated securely, adding that Victorians who are currently unemployed would be perplexed as to why they were demonstrating when thousands could not return to work.
"I have nothing but admiration for the individuals who build our city and state," Mr Andrews said. "As a government, we have supported and built that industry more than any other in the state's history."
"However, there would be a large number of individuals at home because their industry is closed, and they would be perplexed as to why anyone would resist being open."
However, it must be done safely; otherwise, the industry will be forced to run under other conditions, and I'm sure I'd receive advise that it should be closed. That is not something I would want to do."