Chaotic scenes have erupted around Melbourne’s most famous war memorial after police deployed tear gas into a crowd of hundreds, ending a tense stand off.
Chaotic scenes erupted around Melbourne's most famous war memorial this afternoon after police deployed tear gas into a crowd of hundreds, ending a tense stand off.
The scenes come after protesters converged on the Shrine of Remembrance just after 1pm, with many heard chanting "lest we forget", as protests continued in the city for a third day in a row.
Veterans and police have slammed the protesters for "disrespecting the sanctity" of the memorial.
READ MORE: Third day of Melbourne protests - as it happened
A flare was set off and explosion-like sounds were heard as protesters ran from the shrine just before 4pm.
Many ran through traffic on a nearby road, where a car crashed into a tram in the chaos.
Police began patrolling the surrounding streets on a Bearcat.
They issued more than 200 arrests following the protest today.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner, Public Safety & Security Command, Ross Guenther, said some had been arrested for throwing golf balls, tap handles and batteries at police.
Two police officers received head injuries after being hit in the head, while a third was hospitalised with chest pain.
Mr Guenther said it was "completely disrespectful" that the group of protesters ended up at the shrine.
A large crowd marched to the Shrine of Remembrance just after 1pm after protesters marched throughout the streets of the CBD for hours this morning.
The group was seen moving up the walkway to the shrine chanting "lest we forget", the phrase commonly used to pay tribute to fallen servicemen and women.
Large numbers of police hurried to relocate from the CFMEU headquarters in the CBD to the shrine.
Police converged on the walkway to the shrine as hundreds of protesters sat on the shrine's steps and on nearby lawns chanting "freedom" and "every day".
Protesters on the steps to the shrine held up a large banner that read, "End Lockdown NOW. Dan-made Disaster!!!"
READ MORE: Police slam 'cowards' involved in Melbourne protesthttps://twitter.com/ajhegarty9/status/1440539583163207684
The protests, which began on Monday, were originally said to be about the Victorian Government mandating COVID-19 vaccines for construction workers.
Screaming protesters then moved from the stairs of the shrine and rushed towards waiting police, chanting "stand with us" and "walk with us" at officers.
Some protesters took a knee while asking police to join them.
Police then circled protesters at the shrine, with officers forming a ring around the crowd of hundreds.
READ MORE: Nursing and midwifery federation calls for protesters to 'stop thinking only of themselves'
It appeared to be the first time today the protesters had been completely surrounded.
Protesters have been heard chanting "we want peace".
A few bottle were thrown at officers.
Police picked off some protesters in the crowd and arrested them.
A female protester was dragged out of the crowd while sobbing.
She was carried from the scene by four officers after she refused to stand and move.
Shrine of Remembrance CEO Dean Lee has said he is "appalled" by the "disgraceful" actions of the protesters at the sacred site.
"I think there is a difference between fighting for the stability and safety for the future of a nation, versus putting forward your personal views and letting that dominate what is best for the whole country," he said.
"This is not the sort of place to protest."
He praised police for their respect for the Shrine, saying that during moments of civil unrest, officers had always protected the site.
He said while "gentler" tactics might take longer to disperse the protesters, he felt it was the right approach.
Asked what he would say to a protester, he said that he would tell them their actions were "one of the most un-Australian things I have ever seen".
"They are dishonouring what generations have done to protect our country, and that is unacceptable," he said.
Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Luke Hilakari has called the Shrine protesters a "violent, angry mob … desecrating a sacred space".
"These thugs need to be cleared off the streets of Melbourne," he told 9News.
"We have had enough of this type of intimidation."
Mr Hilakari said there were legitimate ways to address problems people had.
He said protesting at a legal rally was far different to what had taken place in Melbourne in recent days.
"We had anti- vaxxers, QAnon, you are seeing people giving Hitler salutes, being assaulted, all of the fake tradie stuff, they put the hi-vis away and you can see them for the thugs they are," he said.
A Melbourne Returned Services League Sub Branch took to Twitter to condemn the shrine being involved in the protest, saying, "The Shrine of Remembrance is not a place for protest".
"We gather there to remember with respect and dignity and it is not appropriate to use this hallowed location for any protest," Hawthorn RSL Sub Branch said.
Returned Services League Victoria has also issued a statement, saying, "The Shrine of Remembrance is sacred".
"Under no circumstances, ever, should the Shrine be a place of protest," the statement reads.
"If any individuals or groups choose to express their political views, positions or ideological theories in the grounds or the Shrine at any time, they are completely disrespecting the sanctity this time-honoured space, those men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have lost their lives, and all Victorian veterans."
The protest comes after violent scenes erupted in Melbourne CBD on Monday and yesterday.
Crowds were unable to gather at the shrine for Remembrance Day last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-victoria-melbourne-protesters-converge-on-war-memorial-shrine-of-remembrance/b7351c38-5f48-47e6-81b4-cd377ff1df38