City Lockdown to Stop Protest Sends ‘Terrible Message’: Australian Director For Human Rights Watch

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
September 16, 2021 Updated: September 16, 2021

The Australian Director at Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson has described the decision by Victorian authorities to shut down and divert the capital city’s public transport system to prevent a potential anti-lockdown protest as “neither necessary nor proportionate.”

Writing on Twitter on Sept. 16, she added, “And it sends a terrible message to more authoritarian regimes who don’t need encouragement in cracking down on protests they don’t like.”

Pearson’s comments come as authorities in Victoria plan to ban buses, trams, and trains from entering the CBD between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. in a bid to stop a planned anti-lockdown protest on the weekend, which Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton described as a “super spreading” event.

Victoria’s capital is still locked down amid a prolonged outbreak of the more transmissible Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Residents of the state have so far endured more than 200 days of lockdown, non-consecutively over six lockdowns, since the pandemic spread to Australia in 2020. Now authorities refuse to lift restrictions until 70-80 percent of people in the state are fully vaccinated.

According to News.com.au, police will be out in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to ensure people comply with the state chief health officer’s public health orders, which determine what people can and can’t do.

“Anyone who’s planning to come in, it is an illegal gathering, and we’ll be doing everything we can to prevent that gathering,” Patton said.

“And if people do get to make it into the CBD for that gathering, we’ll be enforcing that.

‘We’ll be doing everything we can to prevent access to the city,” he said.

Under the state’s public health orders, police have the power to hand out $5,500 fines to people trying to enter the city, while anyone venturing more than 5km (3.1 miles) from their place of residence risk a $1,800 penalty.

Thousands of Australians have previously gathered in a largely peaceful fashion to rally against Melbourne’s ongoing local lockdown restrictions. In the last gathering, Victorian police used non-lethal ammunitions such as pepper ball rounds in their attempts to control the protestors. Injuries were reported from both protestors and Victorian police at the event.

The decision to block transport into Melbourne’s CBD was previously used in Sydney, where police officers held up traffic on major roads into the city, stopping some 38,000 cars, in a bid to fend off any would-be protesters.

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au