Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and freedom for Palestinians have rallied in the Melbourne CBD for the 15th week in a row as other demonstrators blocked an Israeli ship from a city dock.
Victoria Police said about 4,000 people attended the rally, which started at the State Library of Victoria before moving through the streets of Melbourne towards Parliament House.
The event had been billed as a rally to protest the sacking of journalist Antoinette Lattouf by the ABC. The crowd chanted “shame” as she was mentioned once, however speakers focused largely on the thousands of people killed in Gaza and an ongoing blockade at the Port of Melbourne.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll had reached nearly 25,000 since the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7.
A revised Israeli death toll for those terror attacks is 1,139.
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said the months of consecutive peaceful protests appeared to have “fallen on deaf ears” as the siege in Gaza continued, and said it was “time to elevate our action”.
Writer Clementine Ford said Israel had been enacting a “brutal and extremely well-documented genocide in Gaza”.
The protest came amid an ongoing blockade at the Port of Melbourne, which has for more than two days prevented an Israeli-owned ship from being unloaded.
The protesters have been gathering at Webb Dock since Friday to block workers from unloading cargo from the ZIM ship.
Officers used capsicum spray and arrested one person on Saturday morning for spitting at police.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said: “Around 85 protesters were asked to move off private property around 4am [on Saturday] when some became hostile and aggressive.
“A 32-year-old Yarraville woman was interviewed, charged with assault police and bailed to appear in court at a later date.”
Three of those who have been involved in the blockade spoke at Sunday’s rally and urged demonstrators to join them at the dock.
“If Gaza is going to be blocked, then every single Israeli commercial site will also be blocked,” demonstrator Tasnim Sammak said.
The crowd at the dock grew on Sunday afternoon as people left the rally, many chanting “block the dock”.
Government minister Harriet Shing said the government supported the right to peaceful protest, but said it was important police were in a position to minimise the risk to the public.
“People should be able to exit and enter their premises without fear to their health and to their safety,” Ms Shing said.
Shadow Attorney-General Michael O’Brien on Saturday called on the government to restore Victoria Police’s “move-on” powers.
The ABC has attempted to contact ZIM, the Maritime Union of Australia and Victoria International Terminal Company.