Australians took to the streets for another protest in Melbourne in the state of Victoria on Saturday after the government announced a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all “authorised workers.”
Victorian residents marched along Southbank Boulevard in downtown Melbourne and the track around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Participants carried a large white banner with the word “Freedom” and voiced their dissent against vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and the current state government.
A video from citizen journalist Rukshan Fernando shows the protesters marching peacefully and yelling slogans such as “my body, my choice” and “freedom now!” Two black umbrellas can be seen with the words, “coercion is not consent,” and “sack Dan the dictator.”
Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, announced on Friday that everyone with a job on the state’s “authorised worker” list must have a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15, and a second dose by Nov. 26 to keep working on site, lest they risk losing their job.
The requirement covers a vast range of professions spanning 1 million to 1.25 million people in Victoria. The vaccination deadline is separate from another deadline that’s being imposed on those working in aged care, healthcare, construction, education, and freight.
The demonstrators on Saturday ultimately met with a heavy police presence. At one point, a group of about two dozen police officers can be seen chasing after the group of protesters, while one person can be heard yelling, “[Expletive] you, Victoria Police! Shame on you!”
Officers can be seen tackling several protesters to the ground and arresting them. Some police officers on horseback chase the protesters in the park, while a helicopter can be heard flying overhead. According to Fernando’s live video, the group stayed together for at least 40 minutes before breaking up due to police intervention.
At one point after the crowd has dispersed, Fernando can be heard speaking to a woman off-camera, who tells him, “I’m a teacher who’s going to lose my job. … All the teachers out there who are going to have to say bye to their kids …” before she can be heard crying.
“Why are you emotional today?” Fernando asks the woman, who did not want to appear on camera.
“Because I’m going to have to say goodbye to my class, and they’ve been through enough [expletive], and I’m going to have to say goodbye to them just because I won’t get a jab, and haven’t they been through enough?” she says.
She continues, sobbing, “It’s not fair that I’m literally considering getting a vaccine for them. That’s not for my protection, that’s so I can teach these 9-year-olds. How is that OK?”
Fernando chimes in, “So you’re going to take the principled stand and—”
“Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do!” the woman responds.
“You don’t have a choice, you feel like,” Fernando says.
“Yeah, I don’t have a choice,” she says. “It’s not fair. And the kids have been through enough. And, you know, Dan Andrews, are you happy with letting all these teachers’ classes through this hard year. How is that OK? How can you sleep at night, knowing that?”
Lockdown restrictions continue across metropolitan Melbourne and parts of regional Victoria. The state continues to urge people to take the COVID-19 vaccine, with promises to ease restrictions once 80 percent of people are fully vaccinated.