News & Views

Human Rights

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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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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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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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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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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#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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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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Occupy Policing: The Eviction of Occupy Melbourne

By Julia Dehm and Sara DehmFirst published in Critical Legal Thinking, 8 November 2012. 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, activists organised to launch Occupy Melbourne in City Square on…

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