Police have condemned the alleged “dog act” of kicking an officer on the ground at a violent anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne after 15 people were arrested overnight.
North West Metro Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius alleged a police officer was pushed over by protesters” and booted while he was on the ground outside Melbourne East Police Station.
“Kicking a police officer while he’s down is a dog act,” Mr Cornelius said today.
Video of the rally showed hundreds of people, many of them maskless, walking through the city on Thursday night and chanting “Free Victoria”, “sack Dan Andrews” and “no more lockdown”.
Others are expected to be issued with fines for taking part in the illegal gathering, which began around 7pm near Flinders Station.
Investigations are underway into a number of “concerning” incidents including the alleged assault of a police officer and damage to a patrol car.
The officer suffered minor cuts and abrasions and didn’t require medical attention.
“We’re also conducting ongoing investigations in relation to the activation of a flare and criminal damage to a police vehicle which lost both of its wing mirrors,” Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said.
Police used capsicum spray on a number of those involved in the protest action.
“It was certainly volatile last night,” he said.
Victoria Police will release images of a number of protesters they need help from the public to identify later today.
The public is being urged to call Crime Stoppers and dob in those involved.
Mr Cornelius said four of those arrested last night were “key organisers of the protests we have regularly been seeing across the city over the course of COVID lockdowns”.
Anyone found to have been fined in previous protests will be directed to the courts, he said.
“It’s clear to us that there are a number of people for whom being fined makes no difference,” Mr Cornelius said.
“It’s evident they don’t believe the fines are ever going to be paid. They don’t believe the laws of our land apply to them.
“The best way to hold them to account is to put them in front of the court.”
Police will also use CCTV and body-cam footage to identify those involved.
He said police were “outraged” by the “small minority of people” he described as “serial protesters…putting the lives of Victorians, and putting police officers’ health and safety at risk too”.
Police are not anticipating further protest action this weekend but Mr Cornelius said the force is ready if anything does occur.
“Our particular beef is with this hardcore element of violent criminals who kick a police officer while he’s down, who assault police horses, who engage in regular acts of violence against police who are trying to keep the community safe,” he said.
“There are wolves in sheep’s clothing here – there are people who are dressing themselves up as advocates for mums and dads and business owners who are really doing it hard.
“There are individuals out there looking to leverage this situation to pursue their own particular strange notions.”
Mr Cornelius praised the majority of Victorians who were complying with the stay at home orders, which he admitted was a “challenge” now the state is into its sixth lockdown.
“Compliance fatigue is a huge challenge for all of us,” he said.
“We know snap lockdowns work. It does stop the spread of the virus and that is what allows businesses, business owners to return to businesses – that’s what allows the community back out of their homes to enjoy their lives again.”
He said last night’s protest action “puts that outcome seriously at risk”.