Police say they are pulling officers off criminal investigations and into Melbourne’s CBD after climate protesters stopped communicating with them about their planned disruptions.
Victoria Police Commander Tim Hansen said he had “real concerns” about what could happen on Wednesday afternoon after receiving no information from Extinction Rebellion protesters about their plans.
Activists used bikes to block Melbourne intersections during the morning as the planned week-long protest entered its third day.
About 35 cyclists blocked the intersection of Hoddle Street and Gipps Street in Collingwood for about three minutes just before peak hour.
The activists chanted “climate action now” and were surrounded by police who followed the group as they moved down Gipps Street.
Commander Hansen said police were notified of this morning’s protest which “facilitated a very successful outcome”.
But engagement since then had stopped, he said, meaning police officers would be pulled off carjackings, robberies and road safety and “dragged into the CBD because of the unknown”.
“We need a level of cooperation … so we can safely deliver their right to protest,” Commander Hansen said.
But Extinction Rebellion (XR) spokeswoman Jane Morton said the police were “fearmongering”.
“XR has remained in constant contact through our assigned police liaison officer in the interest of public safety,” Ms Morton said in a statement to the ABC.
“The spread of misinformation will not stop the spring rebellion.”
Commander Hansen also warned young people who planned to be arrested that doing so could compromise their future.
“The protesters need to be aware their disruptions impact the broader community that also has human rights,” he said.
“I’d think about the implications of going before a court.
“If convictions are obtained, [think] what that means for the rest of your life, especially those young people who might be intent of travelling and gaining employment.”
Activists split up shortly before peak hour on Wednesday and blocked traffic and trams at the intersection of La Trobe Street and Swanston Street, and Lonsdale Street outside Parliament Station.
Protesters held signs saying “system change not climate change” and chanted while drivers blasted their horns.
Other activists held a mock last supper for coal barons in the moat outside the National Gallery of Victoria.
One driver said the protests were “absolutely ridiculous”.
“I’ve got to take my child to swimming lessons, I’m going to miss that,” she said.
“It’s not doing anything — everyone’s furious and we’re using more and more fuel.”
Another driver said she just wanted “to get home”.
“They are just blocking traffic. I support [them] but not this way,” she said.
Police were directing traffic to an alternate route to get through the city.