Clash fears ahead of planned protests

A series of “freedom rallies” have been planned for Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart on Saturday. Melbourne has been the site of anti-government protests this week as crowds occupied the front steps of the Victorian parliament to demonstrate against the state’s proposed pandemic laws. Demonstrators last weekend wheeled out makeshift gallows with nooses attached. The action has led to anti-fascist protesters to organising a counter rally close to several planned anti-vaccine demonstrations across the country. Victoria Police has warned Melburnians to expect travel disruption in the CBD throughout the day, advising people to be patient, use public transport and allow extra time for their journey.The ugly scenes prompted a fierce back and forth between the nation’s political leaders, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews accusing Scott Morrison of “double speak” to pander to the votes of extremists. “We have seen extremists, rabid anti-vaxxers and others making all sorts of threats, threats against me, my wife and my kids,” Mr Andrews told Channel 9.“I‘m committed to doing what has to be done. I’m not about chasing, through doublespeak, the votes of extremists or their preferences.”The Prime Minister on Friday condemned the protests, but also suggested he understood while the protesters were frustrated. “I was very clear yesterday in denunciating any violence, threats or intimidation that is applied against anyone, and we have absolutely no truck with that whatsoever,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney. “I don’t have sympathy for violence, I don’t have sympathy for threats.“I have sympathy for Australians who have had a gutful of governments telling them what to do over the last two years.”He also said politicians like former Liberal MP Craig Kelly – who is expected to address protesters on Saturday – should not be associating themselves with the rallies. More to come

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