Police Investigate IMARC Protestors

26 August 2020

This article refers to investigations that happened in February 2020.

Police are investigating several Blockade IMARC protesters for unlawful assembly and other charges. 

Victoria Police have contacted at least ten protesters, requesting interviews and questioning them about their involvement with Blockade IMARC.  

Blockade IMARC spokesperson Jacob Andrewartha said police were attempting to charge protesters with unlawful assembly and obstruction of a public pathway. 

In a Facebook post, Blockade IMARC also said the police were intending to arrest protesters with besetting premises, a law to stop the obstruction of building entrances.

According to Andrewartha, many of the contacted protesters weren’t arrested during the week. 

“They’re going through lots of film footage, identifying protesters and trying to question them,” he said. 

Blockade IMARC, an alliance of climate activists, disrupted the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre in October last year. 107 protesters were arrested over the three-day conference. 

Police visited activist Zane Alcorn’s Coburg house and informed his partner that Alcorn was wanted for questioning in relation to the IMARC protests. 

According to Alcorn, it is highly unusual for police to continue questioning protesters months after protests. 

“I’ve been an activist for over fifteen years. I’ve been to several pretty full-on protests where the police have been quite full-on towards protesters,” said Alcorn.  “But I can’t think of an example where there was this kind of follow-up where the police are coming to people’s houses.” 

Spokesperson for Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS), Anthony Kelly, said that police follow-ups are a deliberate strategy to impede protest groups. 

“They’ve set up special units and they go after activists quite assertively with these sorts of charges,” said Kelly. 

“What these charges and arrests do is disrupt protest movements. It means that people are caught up in legal processes that last 12 months or more. It’s an impediment to public participation in protest activity.”

MALS criticised Victoria Police for a heavy-handed response during the October protest, noting “multiple incidents of excessive, unnecessary and potentially unlawful uses of force”.

Police also mistreated journalists. Channel 7 reporter Paul Dowsley was shoved by police, despite following directions. Farrago reporter Ailish Hallinan was pepper-sprayed during the protests. 

Victoria Police could not be reached for comment at the time.

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