Demonstrators arrested as Victorian Parliament debate on new protest bill is disrupted

ABC: Demonstrators arrested as Victorian Parliament debate on new protest bill is disrupted. Wed 12 Mar 2014, 7:52pm AEDT

Four demonstrators were arrested after refusing to leave the Victorian Parliament last night as a bill to give police extra powers to move on protesters was debated.

A disturbance broke out as about 20 people watched from the public gallery as the Legislative Council considered the proposed Summary Offences Bill.

The bill, which passed the Upper House early this morning, gives police extra powers to move against protesters who are blocking buildings or who are suspected of turning violent.

The president of the Legislative Council warned the demonstrators to stop making noise and when some refused, police were called to remove the group.

Samantha Castro was one of the protesters.

“The speaker ordered us to be removed from the gallery and we decided instead we would like to engage with our politicians about these changes,” she said.

“We began speaking out from the gallery and clearly that’s unacceptable from the democratic Upper House.

“We stood our ground because we believed that we had a right as citizens and constituents of this Parliament to actually be heard,” she said.

Labor opposed the bill, but the Opposition’s Gavin Jennings says the action of the protesters was inappropriate.

“It was disruptive to the Parliament and so the decision to actually make sure that they left the parliament to enable the debate to occur was appropriate,” he said.

The two men and two women who were arrested are expected to be charged with refusing to leave a parliamentary precinct.

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