Victorian Police have pleaded with organisers and civilians to reconsider attending a planned climate protest on Friday, January 10 as emergency services will be stretched on the day predicted to see dangerous fire conditions flare.
The event, organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice, has been planned with the intent of calling on more funding for fire and emergency services, to call on an immediate transition away from fossil fuels, and to demand the sacking of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In a post on Facebook, the organisers said: “We demand the government: Pay all firefighters and give them force full funding; Provide genuine relief and aid for affected communities; Begin the immediate rapid transition away from fossil fuels, Sack Scomo!”
According to the group’s Facebook page, protests are also planned for Sydney, Port Macquarie, Adelaide, Geelong, Canberra, Newcastle, Brisbane and Perth.
So far, more than 13k people have said they intend on going to the Melbourne rally, with another 34k expressing interest in attending. However, due to the enormity of such a protest, hundreds of police officers would also be required to attend the event.
According to The Age, Victorian Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Tim Hansen said police need to be there to ensure safety, particularly when streets have to be shut down to facilitate the march. Hansen went on to say, he respects the right to protest but asked that it be moved to another day.
“Our concern of this particular protest is around the timeliness of it, and the resource drain that it’s going to have on Victoria Police as we try to support our emergency services colleagues and those fire-ravaged communities to the east and the north of the state,” Hansen added.
Lily D’Ambrosio, state minister for the Environment and Climate Change, echoed the commander’s concerns, saying, “All of the state’s resources need to go where the highest priorities are. People are entitled to protest, absolutely, but you know the timing is wrong.”
A spokesperson for Uni Students for Climate Justice said, “We haven’t asked for the police to come to the demonstration at all. We’re capable of holding this demonstration without police resources. I don’t think we need to move it to another day, we want to give people a space to have their voices heard. People are angry and they want the government to listen to them.”
However, according to Hansen, Victoria Police don’t have an option because they are duty-bound to provide a well-resourced police contingency in the event of a public protest.
“We have a sworn duty to protect life and property and also to prevent breaches of the peace,” he said.
“So absolutely, once Victoria Police becomes aware of these type of incidents, and these type of protests, we will absolutely deploy a resource to respond to that and make sure that it’s undertaken as safely as possible.”
Weather conditions predicted for Friday are severe, with temperatures in some areas expected to reach 40 degrees celsius. Along with unideal wind patterns, it is cause for concern for emergency services already stretched battling out of control bushfires.