East West Link, union, No Maccas in Tecoma protesters join together to march on State Parliament

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Herald Sun: East West Link, union, No Maccas in Tecoma protesters join together to march on State Parliament. Samantha Landy. 18 February 2014

Protesters march from Trades Hall to the steps of Parliament. Picture: Nicole Garmston Source: News Corp Australia

Up to 2000 vocal protesters have marched through the Melbourne CBD to announce their rejection of the State Government’s proposed “move-on” laws.

Union members and serial protesters made up much of the crowd, which gathered at the Trades Hall in Carlton about 10am before taking the demonstration against Premier Denis Napthine’s proposed changes to the Summary Offences Act down Russell and Spring streets to Parliament House.

The laws would grant Victoria Police officers the power to issue move-on orders where a person is impeding lawful access to a business, obstructing people or traffic and causing a reasonable fear of violence.

Anti-East West Link and No Maccas in Tecoma protesters were among the more vocal demonstrators, the former brandishing a sign declaring they were “proud to be serial pests”.

Members from several unions, including the CFMEU, Ambulance Employees of Victoria, the Victorian Health Professionals Association, the Electrical Trade Union and the National Tertiary Education Union were also in attendance.

Protesters on the steps of Parliament. Source: News Corp Australia

Some dressed in fluro and navy workers’ clothes appeared to have stepped straight off construction sites.

East West Link protest leaders and Socialist Party members Anthony Main and Mel Gregson were among the throng, as were CFMEU Victorian State Secretary John Setka and Trades Hall secretary Brian Boyd.

Some protesters shielded their faces with Guy Fawkes masks, similar to the Anonymous hackers group.

One grasped a placard defiantly stating “let’s break the law so hard it can’t be fixed”.

The protesters were monitored closely by dozens of police officers, some of them mounted on horses and bikes.

A chant of “1, 2, 3, 4 don’t let Denis pass this law, 5, 6, 7, 9 we have a right to demonstrate” rang out as the group met at the Trades Hall.

When one protester leader declared “let’s demonstrate that right”, the protesters set off on a march to Parliament House to make their message directly to the Premier, shouting slogans and banging tin drums along the way.

Police blocked roads to allow their safe passage, while curious shopkeepers and CBD workers came out on the street to see the commotion.

Once at Parliament, the protesters formed a crowd around a makeshift stage at the foot of the steps and heard speeches.

Human rights lawyer Anna Brown declared the bill was a “direct attack” on freedom of speech and expression.

The protesters march from Trades Hall to the steps of Parliament. Picture: Nicole Garmston Source: News Corp Australia

“Police already have enough powers. More powers mean more threat to our fundamental human rights,” she said.

“Victoria is leading the charge in the erosion of human liberty.”

Greens MP Sue Pennicuik said the party would oppose the “Draconian” bill as there was no evidence it was needed.

“It seems to be that this law is about the East West tunnel … about people who are turning up day after day, week after week, to protest about that tunnel,” she said.

“But you don’t make laws just to try and shut down a massive protest about a bad idea.”

Paramedic and union delegate Morgan, who would not give a surname, said the bill would limit ambulance workers’ options for industrial action.

Mr Boyd of the Trades Hall said unions would “not (be) copping these laws”.

“They want to restrict our ability to protest against unfair work conditions,” he said.

Also speaking at the protest, Father Bob Maguire said it was important people felt they could “show solidarity” in a safe, public space.

Police at the protest. Source: News Corp Australia

“The workers have never felt comfortable inside the place designated as the taking place (Parliament),” he said.

“These day the workers are simply continuing the right that they had.

“We want to be peaceful and respectful and we want to show that there’s a new way that is being launched today on the steps of the parliament, reminding those inside that we are in fact the legislators, we the people.”

But business rights advocate VECCI has thrown its support behind the proposed laws as illegal protests blockading businesses impinged on others’ rights.

“People should be able to go about their business and earn a living without others preventing them from doing so or making them fear for their safety,” chief executive Mark Stone said.

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