News & Views

Unlawful Assembly

Unlawful assembly is one of a number of offences related to protesting and activism that protesters can be charged with. It can be difficult to clearly define what offences may apply to protesters, with protesters often charged with multiple offences at once. There also seems to be significant overlap between what makes up the offences, with the charges tending to rely heavily on police discretion. The broadness and lack of clarity surrounding the offence allows it to be utilised by police to limit political protest.

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Charge of Incitement

Earlier this year, several people were fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions whilst protesting. They were protesting against the serious mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Mantra hotels in Victoria and the heightened risk surrounding COVID-19 for those detained. Whilst many protesters were fined for disobeying COVID-19 restrictions, Mantra protest organiser Chris Breen was arrested in his home under the charge of incitement before the protest had even begun. The police also seized his computers and phones during the raid. Given the evolving climate surrounding protesting under COVID-19 restrictions, it is important to have an understanding of the charge of incitement and how it is used in Victoria…

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Interim report on public housing detention directions in Flemington and North Melbourne

Executive summary The threat posed by Covid-19 has led to the mobilisation of state power and authority in new and untested ways. While the community has a shared interest in successfully containing the virus, early evidence suggests that enforcement of public health orders disproportionately impacts on oppressed, poor and marginalised communities. In July 2020, the…

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Being Aware of Visible (and Invisible) Surveillance at Protests

Victoria Police has an arsenal of surveillance equipment and tactics that are regularly deployed against activists. In some cases, new equipment or tactics are trialled at simple demonstrations or marches for use in more rigorous situations later, such as direct actions or protest events. Other times, police surveillance has become a normalised part of life in modern society. Being aware of some of the visible and invisible surveillance that police particularly use against activists is a part of being able to endure in your activism, and is an important part of cultivating and sustaining a culture of resistance as a whole…

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Statement regarding #BlackLivesMatter

The barrage of condemnation, threats, political and legal repression faced by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) this past week, is astounding.  We at Melbourne Activist Legal Support, along with our supporting community legal centres and firms, have nothing but admiration for the integrity, strength, and diligence shown by all the organisers of the Melbourne rally, and the many smaller regional events and those held around the country.

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Community Service Announcement: ‘Protests of Groups of 10’ permitted under latest COVID Directions in Victoria

Protests of groups of ten people are ‘permissible’ under the latest Victorian Stay at Home Directions (No.6). Under the new directions from the Chief Health Officer (CHO) (12 May 2020), Victorians are permitted to leave the house to visit friends or family, to meet in groups of ten outside, and to have up to five…

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A Tale of Two Cities

One pandemic. Two ways of policing protests. May 1 is International Workers’ Day, a day to demand fairer labour conditions and show solidarity across labour movements. Despite the pandemic, workers rallied around the world this May 1. Given the precarious economic times, gatherings in support of workers’ rights were likely all-the-more important this year. Although both…

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Neutral Legal Observers at protests, ABC Law Report, Damien Carrick

Statement of Concern: Good Friday Protest Suppressed by Police under COVID Restrictions

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) is extremely concerned about the way in which the police have used their special policing powers in relation to COVID-19 to suppress peaceful protest. The effect has been to prevent political communication. The situation highlights the lack of exception for peaceful protest under Victorian emergency restrictions. Police arrested one of the…

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How to Get Out of an ‘Unfair’ Coronavirus Fine, 10 Daily, Josh Butler

Calling out Australia at the United Nations

MALS Endorses Joint NGO Submission to Australia’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review Concerned with narrowing space for civil engagement and protest across Australia, Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) endorses in whole the joint non governmental organisation (NGO) submission to Australia’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review that was released on Thursday 9th April. The submission was endorsed by…

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Refugee supporters to defy police ban on car cavalcade, Green Left Weekly, Chris Slee

Statement of Concern: Unique protest squashed by police due to COVID restrictions

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) expresses concern regarding the dampening of political speech and peaceful association in police threats to fine protesters A unique cavalcade protest that had planned to abide by social distancing restrictions has been banned by local police. Victoria Police threatened the organisers with a hefty fines if the cavalcade went ahead.*…

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Are governments violating human rights and civil liberties in coronavirus response?

Historically crises have been exploited to introduce dangerous policies—right now may be one of these moments. By Sahar Vardi, Mar 26, 2020 With the rise of far right, nationalist governments over the past few years, the world has seen more measures to systematically target voices of dissent and political opposition—resulting in the rapid shrinking of…

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What is ‘Strategic Incapacitation’ and why is it important for activists to understand it?

This post is an excerpt from our recent Legal Observer Report: The Policing of the IMARC Protests. Melbourne Activist Legal Support has tracked the rise in coercive and excessive crowd control tactics by Victoria Police over several years at protest events throughout Victoria. Victoria Police’s approach to protests has been characterised by a lack of…

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Legal Observer Report: Policing of the IMARC Protests

Download a PDF copy of this 45 page report here. Media: Legal observers find police ‘set tone of violence’ at anti-mining protests. Benjamin Miller, The Age, December 7, 2019. Executive Summary The police tactics, approaches and the behaviour of individual police members during the IMARC protest events from Tuesday 29th to Thursday 31st October demonstrated…

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Beyond the Law: Pink Vests Holding the Line, Law Institute of Victoria Journal, Karin Derkley

Brutality Checks on Activists, The Saturday Paper, Anthony Kelly

Protecting Activist Rights, Radio Adelaide, Peter Burdon & Nicky Page

Resisting State Repression–Resisting Business as Usual, 3CR Radio, Teishan Ahearne

Preliminary Statement of Concern: Policing of the IMARC Protests

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of Legal Observers at this morning’s protest events at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) that took place at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in Melbourne, Victoria. The protest involved activists chanting, singing, holding banners, speaking and linking arms at the entrance of the Conference…

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Stories from the Spring Rebellion, Climactic Podcast, Mark Spencer & Fien van den Steen

Open Letter to Victoria Police

In reply and in light of protest events planned in Melbourne for the month of October we take this opportunity to remind Victoria Police senior command and all operational commanders assigned to public order policing duties over the coming weeks, that ‘disruption to others’ does not justify limiting the Right to Peaceful Assembly.

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Statement of Concern: The Policing of ‘Extinction Rebellion’

Princess Bridge Blockade and dance protest event Saturday 14th September 2019, Melbourne, Australia Please Note: A response by Victoria Police to the Statement of Concern is included below. On Saturday 14th September 2019 Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of eight (8) trained Legal Observers at the ‘Princes Bridge Block & Dance’ protest…

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Help us protect your rights to protest: Donate to MALS now!

Melbourne Activist Legal Support has launched our first-ever crowdfunding campaign, and here’s why. When people protest in Melbourne, MALS is often there behind the scenes. Our Legal Observer Teams in pink vests and cameras are now a pretty familiar sight on the streets of Melbourne. MALS is an all-volunteer group of lawyers, law-students, and human…

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What is this thing called Activist Legal Support?

Activist Legal Support is not just Legal Observing Many people these days equate Legal Observing with “legal support” partly due to the relatively high visibility and profile of Legal Observing, particularly in Victoria – Legal Observers stand out whilst back-end legal support training / arrest support / court support is far less visible to anyone…

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Statement of Concern: Policing of Invasion Day, 2019

On Saturday 26 January 2019 Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of ten (10) trained Legal Observers at the Invasion Day march that took place in Melbourne’s Central Business District.  The march, which was organised by the group Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance, began with speakers at Victoria’s Parliament House on Spring Street, proceeded…

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Event Report: 66 Records Label Launch, Collingwood

On Saturday 1st of September, to the morning of Sunday the 2nd, September, 2018 Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of nine trained Legal Observers at the 66 Records Label launch that took place at the Gasometer Hotel near the intersection of Alexander Parade with Smith Street, in Collingwood, Victoria. Legal Observers were…

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#NotWithYou: Why More Weapons for Victoria Police is a Very Bad Idea

Victoria Police have revealed it’s armoury of new repressive weaponry.

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Event Report: Invasion Day Rally, March 2018

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of seven(7) legal observers at the 2018 Invasion Day Rally and March which was organised by the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR). The team observed and noted police behavior, crowd control tactics and interactions with the public from 9.30am until the completion of the event at 3.30pm….

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Statement of Concern: Unlawful use of OC Foam, 25th June 2017

‘No Pride in Hate’ Rally, 25th June 2017, Melbourne, Australia On Sunday the 25th of June 2017 Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of five (5) trained Legal Observers at the ‘No Pride in Hate’ protest that took place between the Carlton Gardens and Melbourne’s Central Business District. Legal Observers monitored and recorded…

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Our Activist Lawyers Network is launched!

A report on the launch of the Activist Lawyers Network Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) launched our lawyers network with Amnesty International-Victoria on the 30th May 2017. We heard from several lawyers with combined decades of experience in supporting activists and progressive causes – Matt Wilson (MALS) Rob Stary from Stary Norton Helphan, Meghan Fitzgerald from Fitzroy…

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Roles of the Activist Lawyers Network

Solicitors can play a vital role in protecting the civil, political and human rights of activists seeking positive change. They can help demystify the law and legal processes, provide concrete information and help activists make informed choices about protest action. Importantly, lawyers can reassure people engaged in civil disobedience by their presence, support and advocacy…

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About the Anti-Mask (Public Order) Laws

Since our article Anti-Mask Laws proposed in Victoria, was published the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Public Order) Bill 2017 has been passed in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and is now law in Victoria. This article has been updated on 21 June 2018. PLEASE NOTE: Masks are NOT be banned at all protest events–but ONLY those held…

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Staying Safe: Protective Strategies for Activists

Organisations like Protection International (PI) and Peace Brigades International (PBI) work in different countries with HRDs on protective strategies that can lower the chance of attacks and threats. Working together with activists and HRDs, these organisations have built a body of techniques that people can access and apply to their own work. Knowing how to…

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Submission to Inquiry into Drug Law Reform

MALS makes a further submission that “meaningful harm reduction” extends to include banning the use of drug detection dogs and strip searches at music and arts festivals.

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Anti-mask Laws Proposed in Victoria

Proposed Victorian anti-mask legislation could put at risk this and countless other forms of peaceful political expression and potentially undermine the freedom we have to assemble and associate.

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Statement of Concern: Treatment of Legal Observer, 11th February 2017

‘Block the Bill’ Rally, 11th February 2017, Melbourne, Australia On Saturday the 11th of February 2017 Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) fielded a team of three (3) trained Legal Observers at the ‘Block the Bill’ rally that took place on Swanston Street, near the intersection with Latrobe Street, at the State Library Victoria in Melbourne’s…

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What is this thing called Legal Observing?

And why do you wear those pink vests? Legal Observers, or Human Rights Monitors as they are sometimes called, have become a common sight at large scale protest events throughout the western world over the past decade or so and the chances are you have seem MALS Legal Observers in the pink hi-vis vests at…

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Lawful or Unlawful?

“I support your right to protest, as long as you don’t break the law…” How many times have you heard this statement from police, from politicians, from passers by, or even friends and family? A Victorian Premier, when questioned about protesters picketing a company building said that while he respected the right of people to…

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Are you a Human Rights Defender? The Statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur is Worth a Read

United Nations special rapporteur Michel Forst, who members of Melbourne Activist Legal Support met with in early October, has released his report on the situation of human rights defenders in Australia.*

It was a powerful and important statement and has largely backed up what Australian activist, legal and human rights organisations have been saying for many years – that the Australian Government is dangerously impeding and repressing those of us in Australia trying to defend and stand up for our basic civil and political rights.

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Policing the Black Lives Matter Rally, Melbourne, 17th July 2016

The police presence at the Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally on Sunday 17 July, 2016 was notable for its sheer size and scale.* Everyone at the event would have noticed the long lines of police arrayed around the initial rally gathering point at the State Library forecourt and the various PORT – Public Order Response Team…

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Wired for Sound: Australian Police Purchases of LRADs

LRADs came to light in Australia leading into Brisbane’s G20 meeting (2014), when QLD police (QPS) invited protest groups to view the hardware to be used ‘to ensure protesters followed the routes set down for them’

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Statement of Concern: Treatment of Legal Observer, 18th July 2015

On Saturday, 18th of July, 2015, at approximately 12:43PM on the corner of little Bourke and Spring streets, in Melbourne, Australia a MALS Legal Observer had their mobile phone snatched out of their hands by a Victorian Police member from the Operations Response Unit (ORU) during counter-protests to the Reclaim Australia rally. The Legal Observer…

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