A Melbourne vaccination hub has been forced to close after nurses were spat on and abused by violent protesters.
‘Due to a disruptive demonstration in the city, cohealth Central City and cohealth Melbourne Town Hall Vaccination centre have been forced to close for client and staff safety,’ cohealth tweeted on Thursday.
‘We hope to be safe to open by Monday 27 September so we can continue providing health care to our city.’
The anti-vaxxers were seen plotting to disrupt vaccination centres on Telegram from early on Thursday morning as Melbourne braced for a fourth day of violence on the streets.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews slammed the behaviour as ‘appalling’ and said some of it was coming from those ‘pretending to be legitimate protesters’.
‘These people are doing the very best of work. They are vaccinating people, providing people with close to certainty – not absolute but close to certainty – that they will not become gravely ill,’ he said.
‘Why would you abuse, as I’m told, why would you spit on people who are doing that sort of work?
‘That is ugly, that is uncalled for. I am not sure whether those people can be identified but if they can, it is my expectation that Victoria police will deal with them.’
Protester at a demonstration against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and a two week shutdown of the construction industry at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on Wednesday. Nurses and teachers are reportedly planning to join a fourth day of anti-vaxxer protests on Thursday
Nicole Bartholomeusz, the Chief Executive of cohealth said the situation was so dire that staff have now been instructed not to wear their uniforms out in public to avoid being targeted.
‘I am distressed to report that there have been several incidents of cohealth health workers in the city being physically and verbally abused while on their way to work, targeted because they were wearing their cohealth identification,’ she said.
‘We give this instruction with the heaviest of hearts, as our staff are so proud to be part of an organisation that supports our most vulnerable citizens and are proud to be recognised as cohealth workers.
‘Our staff, and all health workers, deserve to be safe at work. I am shocked at the treatment of people who deserve nothing but our utmost gratitude and praise for working throughout the pandemic to ensure everyone gets the support and healthcare they need.’
Ms Bartholomeusz added that due to the violence, their Central City homelessness service and outreach services also had to be shut down.
‘This means people experiencing homelessness can no longer access vital services and supports at Central City and at least 200 people per day will no longer be able to access the vaccine from the Melbourne Town Hall,’ she said.
Earlier, Melbourne’s protest leaders told demonstrators gathering for anti-vaxxer rallies on Thursday to look ‘smart’ and ‘sophisticated’.
Nurses and teachers are reportedly planning to join the protests, with workers from the two professions vowing to join tradesmen rallying against vaccine mandates according to organisers on Telegram.
One group member said ‘nurses are going to turn up in scrubs’ in encrypted messages seen by Daily Mail Australia.
‘All occupations welcome. Not just us tradies. We will be there but we need your help,’ another wrote.
Protesters have vowed to join tradesmen rallying against vaccine mandates on Thursday in the Melbourne Freedom Rally group on Telegram
Others wrote that hi-vis workers had been ‘vilified’ during the first three days of protests in Melbourne and called for demonstrators to dress smarter Thursday.
‘Everyone start turning up in suits, shirts/ties, dress shoes. Look smart, look sophisticated. Time to destroy the narrative,’ they wrote.
Another suggested nurses, teachers and trade workers staged three separate rallies before joining together later in the day.
‘What if at 10am nurses start at the ANMF [Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation] in Melb, tradies at CMFEU, teachers at the Uni of Melb education building,’ they wrote.
‘Then join together in the middle of the CBD at 12. Show the unity of all Victorians.’
The Victorian government on Wednesday announced all teachers and early-childhood workers will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to keep their job.
‘[Premier] Dan Andrews will eventually mandate the vaccine for every worker – is that what you want,’ another member of the group wrote.
Protesters also suggested undermining the state’s efforts to get jabs into arms by gathering outside vaccination centres to ‘slow it down’.
‘You’re allowed to legally be there. Just stand in the massive line until the numbers are there,’ one said.
Victoria Police though are going to new lengths to stop protesters from assembling in Melbourne’s CBD.
On Thursday morning, officers demanded television crews stop live streaming from outside construction union CFMEU’s headquarters – which has become the epicentre of this week’s protests.
THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVICE PROTEST LEADERS ARE GIVING DEMONSTRATORS
‘Everyone start turning up in suits, shirts/ties, dress shoes. Look smart, look sophisticated. Time to destroy the narrative,’ one Telegram user wrote ahead of Thursday’s planned protest.
‘Some of the nurses are going to turn up in scrubs,’ another said.
Victorian riot police officers stand guard as protesters demonstrate against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on Wednesday
Police have argued protesters are using online streams to gather intelligence on police movements.
The planned protest comes a day after more than 400 protesters stormed Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday.
Some chanted ‘lest we forget’ and the national anthem – before throwing rocks at the cops, leading riot police to clear the site by firing rubber bullets and firing gas grenades.
Shrine of Remembrance CEO Dean Lee said he was ‘appalled’ after footage shared online showed police removing rubbish bags from the monument in the hours after the protesters decamped.
A protestor is seen being taken away by police at the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday. More than 400 protesters stormed the monument to rally against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and the construction industry shutdown
Pictured: Protesters at the shrine. ‘I just cant believe these people thought it was right to go to a place like the shrine and carry on that,’ Vietnam Veterans Association Victorian state president Bob Elworthy said
The memorial boss also claimed protesters urinated on the shrine during the rally.
‘I was appalled at their behaviour,’ Mr Lee told the Today show.
‘I saw it as entirely selfish and disrespectful to the memory of what our Australian men and women have done for our Defence Force.’
Mr Lee said his first instinct after the crowd dispersed was to inspect the memorial for damage.
‘I will acknowledge the protestors caused no damage to the memorial and for that I am grateful,’ he said.
‘But there was broken glass, there was rubbish, there was urination, there was beer cans, it was just everything that this place does not represent and should not be.’
Vietnam Veterans Association Victorian state president Bob Elworthy said the ‘unedifying’ protest that unfolded was ‘one of the most un-Australian things’ he’d ever seen.
‘I just cant believe these people thought it was right to go to a place like the shrine and carry on that,’ he told 3AW.
‘I wonder if they would go to their own grandparent’s grave and drink beer on it.
‘This mob of idiots have no moral fiber at all. If they’re going to do that on the shrine, goodness knows where else they’re going to do it.’
Former Australian Army veteran Senator Jaquie Lambie also on Thursday morning launched into an angry tirade at the protesters, who she described as an embarrassment.
Protesters descended on Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday, sparking nationwide anger
‘I can tell you now for those who have served, for those who have serving they are absolutely disgusted,’ the outspoken federal senator fumed on the Today show on Thursday.
‘To walk on that Shrine, to walk on that sacred ground and drop your cigarettes and your beer cans all over the place and to do what you did is absolutely a whole new low for you people and I can tell you now if you think this is giving you more support and you are building you’ve got to be kidding yourself because it is not just veterans that see what is going on.’
‘I remind you people as well through blood, sweat and tears is the reason you have your freedoms because all these people have fought for this country to have that and to stand there and say, ‘Lest we forget,’
‘I tell you, we’re not forgetting your performance yesterday.’
The protests initially began in opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms, but have since turned into wider unrest after the state government shut doen the industry for two weeks.
Chanting ‘every day’ from the Shrine of Remembrance, hundreds without masks – some still wearing high-visibility clothing – marched through the city to the war memorial.
Police made 215 arrests while two officers suffered head injuries after bottles were thrown at them.
‘It was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the shrine, which is such hallowed ground in this great city,’ Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther.
‘Our general observation from the people on the ground was that there weren’t as many tradies involved,’ Mr Guenther said.
‘We will vary our tactics tomorrow. But, of course, my message is don’t come into the city,’ the deputy commissioner said.
Senator Lambie defended the actions of riot police (pictured) forced to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who refused to leave
RSL Victoria said the mob had disrespected the sanctity of the sacred site, while Shrine of Remembrance chair Stephen Bowater called it ‘disgraceful’.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee said the protesters should be condemned in the strongest possible terms and should apologise.
‘To use it as a protest site violates this sanctity and denigrates and disrespects the memory of those who have served and sacrificed so much for our nation,’ he said.
‘There can be no justification for this outrage.’
Victoria recorded 628 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily tally of the state’s current outbreak.
Jacqui Lambie described protesters at Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance as ‘a whole new low’
Protesters are seen marching through the streets of Melbourne with one holding a lit flare
A man who later begged protesters to get off the war memorial is seen wearing war medals outside the Shrine of Remembrance
Police opened fire at protests with rubber bullets after being pelted with rocks an bottles
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said those involved should be ashamed of their ‘disgraceful’ behaviour.
‘Those scenes were disgraceful and the conduct was disgraceful,’ he told reporters in Washington.
‘This is a sacred place, it is not a place of protest. It dishonoured those Australians who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.
‘I would hope all who engaged in that disgraceful behaviour would be ashamed.’
MELBOURNE ANTI-VAXXER PROTESTERS’ LIST OF DEMANDS
1. Emergency state powers to be removed immediately
2. Lockdowns to end immediately
3. Mask mandate to end immediately
4. Vaccine mandates to end immediately
5. Vaccine passport to be removed
6. Immediate resignation of Premier Daniel Andrews
7. Immediate resignation of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton
8. Immediate resignation of Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton
9. Royal commission into government’s response to pandemic
10. Charges laid against officers for ‘assaulting peaceful protesters’
11. All construction sites to resume immediately
12. Mass distribution of invermectin, vitamins C, D, and zinc