“It should absolutely not be occurring, it would be illegal, protesting isn’t allowed and we will take all actions we can to stop it occurring,” he told radio station ABC Melbourne.

“The [Chief Health Officer] tells us if we have mass gatherings of people we will risk the spread of the virus … we don’t want to abuse the powers of the [Chief Health Officer], we understand the level of trust that needs to be in us as an organisation, we understand it can sometimes be a fragile trust and confidence.

“For us it’s about using discretion but we won’t step away from our responsibilities to enforce.”

Mr Patton said police have taken a different response to the anti-lockdown protests compared with the Black Lives Matter protest in June because of the differing contexts in which they took place.

“A major consideration and distinction then is we did not have the absolute spread of the virus that we do have now, and that would have put a completely different framework around the decision making process,” Mr Patton said.

Tony Pecora, who is organising Saturday’s gathering, called on supporters to spread the message that police say violate the terms of the Chief Health Officer’s orders.

On Thursday, he had relisted the event with the same wording and name but with the additional note: “The Original ‘Event’ was taken down with 1500+ participants. Time to reboot.”

Mr Pecora – an anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist dropped by Clive Palmer as his party’s candidate for the seat of Melbourne at the last federal election – called on supporters to spread details of the march, something police say violate the terms of the Chief Health Officer’s orders.

“Please like and share and spread the word,” the event details on Facebook says.

Mr Pecora told The Age on Wednesday that the Tan march would become a weekly event that grows in size and that the events were designed to remain compliant with stage four restrictions.

Protesters fighting with police when they were being arrested.Credit:Justin McManus

Mr Pecora said he had encouraged people to wear masks and practise social distancing.

Facebook, who has not yet provided specific details about why they remove specific events and how they deal with those events when they are re-listed, took the event down after about 1500 people had indicated an attendance or interest.

A spokesperson said Facebook was “currently investigating the issue”.

Police estimated about 200 people gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance last Saturday morning after people used social media to tout “Freedom Day” rallies across the country. Organisers, of that event however, suggested police estimates are low and that turnout was much higher.

About 100 police were in and around the Shrine early in the day.

Mounted officers were used to move the crowd on about midday amid chants of “Dictator Dan” and “Let the kids live”.


Police arrested 17 people at a gathering on Saturday that began at the Shrine of Remembrance and moved on to Albert Park Lake.

After that event, protesters vowed to continue taking to the streets in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

Last Wednesday officers arrested pregnant Ballarat woman Zoe Buhler and charged her with incitement over a Facebook post in which she encouraged people to attend a rally.

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David Estcourt is a court and general news reporter at The Age.

Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.


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