Two senior Victorian ministers in the ALP Andrews government have joined Victoria police in calling on the Socialist Alternative front group “Uni Students for Climate Justice” to abandon their protest on Friday due to predicted extreme fire-danger.
Authorities want organisers to call off the action, change the date or at least confine it to one spot rather than marching through the entirety of the Melbourne CBD.
Fire danger is rated as very high for most Victorian regions on Friday, extreme in the Northern Country region and severe in Mallee and Woomera.
But protest organisers are doubling down on their plans. “Uni Students for Climate Justice” have accused Victoria police and the Victorian state government of lying about the need for police resources, declaring it a “confected crisis” designed to distract from the real discussion, which according to a recent interview by Socialist Alternative activist and “Uni Students for Climate Justice” Sydney co-convenor Gavin Stanbrook is about how to overcome capitalism.
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville disagreed declaring that she was stunned to hear the protests were going ahead when fire conditions are expected to worsen and urged organisers to reconsider.
“This is a really reckless and selfish thing people are doing,” she said.
“I don’t want to see police having to pull people out of (fire-affected) communities to come in and manage a protest.
“There is a time for protests. It’s not this Friday”
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio echoed her collegue saying that the last thing emergency services need is people “deviated or distracted” by the well-meaning but poorly-timed protest.
“People are entitled to protest, absolutely, but the timing is wrong,” she said.
“People are recovering, trying to recover, at the same time they’re preparing for another spike event.”
While police are duty-bound to attend the protest, Acting Assistant Commissioner Tim Hansen agreed with the ministers that Friday is not a good time.
“This is a distraction for us. We see frontline staff returning from the fire ground … fatigued that do need a break and this is now another operation we need to resource,” he told reporters.
“We are frustrated by this protest timing and we are also frustrated by the lack of flexibility by the protest organisers to work with us in trying to find a more suitable time.”