A four-day protest at a major Melbourne port has turned violent as hundreds of police bear down on the dock, using pepper spray to control the crowd.
About 40 activists have formed a picket line at Webb Dock Victoria International Terminal at Port Melbourne to protest Israeli shipping company Zim over concerns the boat’s cargo could include weapons bound for the Middle East.
More than 200 police officers attended the port at the “peak” of protest on Monday as the protest turned violent, with Free Palestine Melbourne claiming police used pepper spray and excessive use of force.
“We condemn the police violence today and throughout the last 4 days including the use of pepper spray on people not posing a threat, crowd control that escalated the risk of harm, and excessive use of force,” Free Palestine Melbourne said in a post to their Instagram on Tuesday morning.
Victoria police said they have “escalated” their response to the protest in recent days, making a total of ten arrests on Tuesday, including nine for trespassing and one for criminal damage.
“The protest activity is extremely dynamic and has escalated in recent days. So too has our police response,” a police spokesperson said.
The spokesperson explained that Victoria Police are only able to arrest people for protesting if the property owner requests they leave, and this happened for the first time on Monday.
A number of dock workers have been stood down without pay for refusing to work during the “unsafe conditions” the claim the protest have created.
Police have made multiple offers to assist employees getting to and from work via alternate routes, and while at first they declined, they have sought out this support in the past 24 hours.
Despite this, in just two days protesters raised more than $23,000 in funds to cover the pay workers will miss out on.
They will release details on how this money is distributed in the coming days.
The Zim-owned ship Ganges has been anchored off shore for more than three days as of Tuesday, and has been unable to dock.
It is understood the protest has impacted other shipping companies at the port.