Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said police were respected people’s rights to protest, but would have preferred the action be postponed until after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
He urged those planning to attend to follow public health directions on social distancing to prevent any more coronavirus infections.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said outgoing Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and his successor Shane Patton had told him they would not be enforcing social distancing fines at the protest because it was “not feasible” given thousands of people may attend.
“That’s a decision that Victoria Police has made,” Mr Andrews said, adding that the decision had not been made by his Police Minister Lisa Neville.
Police have slammed the action as a “completely blatant breach” of health orders and warned anyone who attends faces a $1652 fine.
“This selfish behaviour will absolutely not be tolerated. Be assured Victoria Police will be responding and will take appropriate action,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.
“There will be a highly visible presence in and around the city to ensure the community is complying with Stage Four restrictions.
“We will have no hesitation in issuing $1,652 fines or making arrests on the day, if necessary.”