“This is a distraction for us, this is another challenge which we’re resourced for and we will have police out on the ground. We’re duty bound to have police at significant protests and we’ll be there in big numbers as required.”
Uni Students for Climate Justice spokeswoman Anneke Demanuele said police weren’t needed at the protest and it was “abhorrent” they would get in its way.
“We haven’t asked for the police to come to the demonstration at all, we’re capable of holding this demonstration without police resources,” she said.
“People of Melbourne march through the streets all the time.”
The state government minister responsible for the environment and climate change, Lily D’Ambrosio, backed the view of police, saying all of the state’s resources “need to go where the highest priorities are”.
“People are entitled to protest, absolutely – but, you know, the timing is wrong,” she said.
“The last thing we need is for our emergency services personnel to be deviated or distracted by what is a well-meaning protest.”
Mr Hansen said police needed to be there to ensure safety, particularly when streets have to be shut down to facilitate the march.
Police are expecting at least 5000 protesters, and Mr Hansen said a couple of hundred of officers would be needed.
He said he respected the right to protest and had asked for the action to be held another day, but Ms Demanuele said the group have no plans to do so.
“I don’t think we need to move it to another day … we want to give people a space to have their voices heard. People are angry and they want the government to listen to them,” Ms Demanuele said.
Victoria Police has now turned its attention to discouraging people from attending.
“Our position is now to try and limit the amount of resources we need to inject to support a safe protest environment,” Mr Hansen said.
“Those people sitting at home who might be thinking about going to the protest, look at this through the lens of emergency services and the communities ravaged by fires. Is this the best way to demonstrate your support?”
Ms Demanuele said anyone concerned about drawing police resources away from the fire effort on Friday could attend other actions in “rolling protests in the coming weeks”.
There are plans for protests across the country on Friday, with Melbourne’s starting at 6pm. A Facebook page for the event shows about 45,000 people are interested in attending.
“These fires, heatwaves, and droughts are not just unprecedented – they’re the direct result of decades of climate destruction at the hands of fossil fuel loving politicians,” the page says.
Protest organisers have also called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be sacked.
“This man has no empathy and no compassion for people in Australia and he needs to go. The whole lot of them need to go actually,” Ms Demanuele said.
Mr Morrison was widely criticised for holidaying in Hawaii as the fire crisis took hold.
Rachel is a breaking news reporter for The Age.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.