News & Views

New pathway for organising protests under COVID: A MALS review

The Victorian Government has an application process for holding large protest events under COVID.  Here’s what you need to know. Updated: 29 March 2021 This new framework provides a formal pathway for organisers of protest events  larger than the current public gathering limits (currently at 200 as at 26 March 2021) to be granted an…

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Lessons from the Occupy Movement: A web forum

3.00pm Sunday, February 21, 2021 Inspired by the global call for action by the Indignados movement in Spain, the protests and revolutions across the Arab World and the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, Occupy Melbourne and Occupy Sydney was launched by many hundreds of activists in October 2011. Occupy sought to transform…

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Statement of Concern: Police acting outside their powers at the Australian Open

In the past week, police have been threatening a small group of refugee protesters, including members of Grandmothers for Refugees, with arrest and issuing them with ‘Directions to Leave’. We believe that these actions by police fall outside the scope of the powers provided by the Major Events Act 2009 (Vic) and therefore unreasonably and disproportionately restrict the right to peaceful assembly and political expression enshrined in Victoria’s Charter.

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Call on the City of Melbourne to stop silencing protests

You can send a letter to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne with a simple request that the Council put in place clear protocols that prevent its local laws being used to silence protest. Help us call upon the City of Melbourne to stand up for human rights and refuse police requests to silence protests.

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Statement of Concern: The misuse of Council Local Laws to restrict protest

For some time now Victoria Police have been using a City of Melbourne Council by-law – Local Activities Act 2019 – as a way of controlling and restricting protest events. Specifically, police have been calling City of Melbourne compliance officers to enforce Sections 5.7 and 12.8 of this Local Law to restrict any use of amplified sound at protest events. This is our Statement of Concern.

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What is ‘kettling’ & why is it such a problem?

Kettling is a controversial containment technique used by police during protests that has the purported purpose of de-escalating tensions, but has come under heavy criticism for having the opposite effect. It involves the police confining protesters (and sometimes bystanders) to a specific area, with those caught inside only being able to leave at the decision…

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Victoria Police Weapon ID guide

This guide is to help journalists, legal and human rights observers identify weapons that are currently available to Victoria Police. This is not an exhaustive list. It includes weapons used in crowd-control / public-order management contexts.  The guide is available to download as a foldable A4 leaflet here (PDF) Note: Using, drawing or threatening use…

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URGENT RELEASE: Urgent scrutiny of police powers and access for legal observers at Djab Wurrung sacred trees protest

For urgent release 27 October 2020 Human rights and legal organisations have condemned a police operation targeting Djab Wurrung protestors who are protecting sacred Djab Wurrung trees in Victoria and are calling for urgent scrutiny of police powers and access for legal observers to monitor police actions during the protest.  Legal services have received reports…

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Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Surveillance During COVID-19

During COVID, police throughout Australia have rapidly and aggressively expanded their already-considerable surveillance capabilities, spurred on by State and Federal governments pushing technological solutions for social control during the pandemic. Amid this, we’ve witnessed the expansion of Automated Number Plate Recognition technology to profile and record the movements of citizens in vehicles, particularly at State borders which have closed during the pandemic.

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Protest, Repression, and the Law: Defending Protest

Provided here is the second recording of a series of free virtual public panels and training sessions around the theme Protest, Repression, and the Law that Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) is running as part of Victorian Law Week 2020. The recording is a virtual discussion on emergency and innovative legal defences for protest. In…

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Where does MALS sit with all these ‘anti-lockdown’ protests?

MALS understands that many people feel that the Chief Health Officer (CHO) directives such as mask-wearing, movement restrictions, business closures, and the current Stage 4 evening curfew represent unfair and unjustified infringements of their rights. For many people, these restrictions may be the first time they have experienced significant limitations upon their freedoms. For others, these restrictions may compound feelings of already being targeted by police. We understand that many people in Victoria are fearful and have concerns that these limitations on our basic freedoms might represent a growing authoritarianism. The use of the charge of ‘incitement’ against people organising or proposing any protest events as well as house raids and confiscations needs to be broadly condemned no matter where we stand.

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Protest, Repression, and the Law: A Right to Protest?

Writing to your MP, volunteering for a community group, or attending a protest are all types of basic civic engagement that are critical for a strong democracy. However, the ability of concerned citizens to engage in protest is increasingly being discouraged, if not repressed, by a range of legal techniques and political commentary. This is the first recording of a series of free virtual public panels and training sessions around the theme Protest, Repression and the Law that Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) will be running as part of Victorian Law Week 2020.

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MALS Upcoming Public Events

Protest, Repression and the Law: A Series of Public Panels and Trainings Previously postponed from Victoria Law Week 2020, MALS is presenting a series of free virtual public panels and trainings around the theme: “Protest, Repression and the Law.” These panels and trainings have been made possible through a grant from the Victoria Law Foundation….

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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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