Frustrated construction workers say they are appalled by the violence in Melbourne this week after protesters took to the streets dressed in hi-vis gear to give the illusion of a revolt.
About 2,000 protesters rampaged through the city in demonstrations against a two-week shutdown of the construction industry imposed due to surging Covid case numbers. Many were legitimate tradies – but others were anti-lockdown troublemakers dressed as building sector workers.
Over the course of the week, demonstrators charged police, attacked CFMEU headquarters, let off smoke bombs, abused and threw urine at media and swarmed Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance, which was built to honour men and women who served and died in the First World War.
Some protesters were even filmed apparently pausing to snort cocaine.
Daily Mail Australia spoke to carpenters, plumbers and electricians on Friday who were unhappy at the construction lockdown and mandatory vaccines.
Daily Mail Australia spoke to carpenters, plumbers and and electricians on Friday who were unhappy at the construction lockdown and mandatory vaccines – but only one contractors admitted their workers were at the ongoing ‘Freedom’ rallies
Melbourne’s frustrated tradies say they understand the reasons for protesting – especially around vaccine mandates and the construction shutdown – but are appalled by behaviour of many protesters this week
Protesters set up camp at Melbourne’s war memorial in the hope police wouldn’t fire on them out of respect for fallen Anzacs
Plasterer Adam Warne was ‘devastated’ and angry that a man he doesn’t know who has never worked for him wore his company shirt to one of Melbourne’s violent anti-lockdown rallies
Protest organisers requested demonstrators attend the Victorian Workers’ Rally for Freedom protests in ‘work clothes’.
In one case, a furious plasterer with no interest in the protests saw a protester wearing his company shirt appear on television news, fuelling claims the protesters were fake.
Father-of-four Adam Warne, who runs AWP Plastering and Rendering in Morwell, told Daily Mail Australia the man wearing his shirt was a mate a subcontractor he fired, whom he’d never met.
‘I was literally in the doctor’s waiting room about to have my first jab when it came up on the news,’ he said, adding that he was ‘devastated’ and had been in damage control mode since.
Construction workers clash with protesters at a rally outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union on Monday
An anti-lockdown protester lets off a smoke bomb in downtown Melbourne
William Masters, owner of Melbourne Plumbing Company, told Daily Mail Australia the timing of the protests was poor as there was Covid spreading in the city.
‘I’m concerned about coronavirus getting around even more if a couple of protesters get it.
‘I’m against the protests – they’re very unsafe, they’re putting lives at risk.
‘Some of their behaviour has been disgusting. It makes our trade look bad, like we’re all the same.
‘The government is obviously trying to keep everyone safe. It’s best to follow whatever they require us to do, they run the country.’
The irony of anti-vaxxers stopping to snort mysterious powder (pictured) while protesting against life-saving Covid vaccines was not lost on Twitter users who ruthlessly mocked the duo
A protester in hi-vis was filmed damaging a police vehicle
The swarm of anti-lockdown protesters charge Melbourne police on Victoria street at Richmond last Saturday
Kylie Williamson, who runs Melbourne Construction Solutions told Daily Mail Australia he supported some of the protesters’ reasons.
For example Mr Williamson is not in favour of compulsory vaccines.
‘But I don’t think anyone would want their boys wearing their colours out at protests there,’ he said.
‘What about the massive majority of people who don’t agree with the protests, it could cost you business later on.’
Mr Masters agreed wearing a work shirt to a protest was wrong.
Protesters hide their identities as they let off flares during demonstrations this week
There is no doubt many tradies have ‘had enough’ after Melbourne’s construction industry was shut down for two weeks by the Victorian Premier
‘I’ve heard about that. I’d be quite upset if my boys did that.’
Ben, who runs an electrical company in the domestic construction sector in east Melbourne, said he was frustrated that he’d been vaccinated but wasn’t allowed to work.
‘A lot of my closest network friends family in construction and were probably all of same opinion – they don’t support mandating vaccines, but they have to get them to have a chance of getting back to work.’
But he was shocked by the violence.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews came in for heavy criticism from some of the tradies Daily Mail Australia spoke to
Plumber Steve was infuriated by images of Dan Andrews and his family sitting down for steak
‘It’s a pretty serious thing to go and carry on like they have, stopping traffic, stopping people in their daily lives and violence is not called for.’
He said the behaviour of the protestors meant turning up in a company work shirt would ‘bring that company into disrepute’.
‘The violent behaviour makes other tradies trying to do the right thing look bad.’
Sole trader Adrian Aup of AGA Property Improvements agreed people should protest on their own behalf.
‘I personally believe what someone puts into their own body should be up to them to decide.’
He believes ‘a mix of people’ are on the streets – some genuine and some not.
‘There are definitely people out there who just saw the opportunity to do the wrong thing. Damaging cars and property is very disappointing.’
Mr Williamson admitted being frustrated by the behaviour of protesters.
‘You don’t have to go out there in your tradie gear and look like a thug to prove your point- it just makes the whole industry look stupid.’
Mr Williamson his staff have not protested and was sceptical about how many at the rallies were genuine tradespeople.
Carpenter Kylie Williams believes many of the tradies rallying were fake and had bought hi vis for protests
‘I promise you right now if you look at half of them, they’re wearing Buckaroo Kmart s*** that they bought that day.’
But a contractor who runs Vic Build Carpentry, but did not want to be named, admitted his staff had protested.
‘Everyone can have their own view. I agree with them too, mostly over the vaccines.’
Ali, who runs Zaas Carpentry at Greensborough agreed.
‘I should not be forced to have a vaccine.’
Ali said he knows tradies who have protested.
‘Of course they’re real tradies out there, civilians don’t have time for that,’ he said.
‘Tradies are over it and they want to get on with it, so they’re sending a message to Dan Andrews.’
Steve, who runs JPG Plumbing and Gasfitting, said neither he or his workers had protested but thinks real tradies are involved.
‘Tradies have had enough of this. I’d just say be reasonable, don’t throw bottles, don’t hurt anyone,’ he said.
‘The little guy is really suffering from these lockdowns. Our business is down 40 per cent easily.’
Steve was furious at Mr Andrews.
‘It’s ok for him, he’s on a salary paying hundreds of thousands and eating big juicy steaks on Instagram, while we’re eating pizza and noodles,’ Steve said.
Mr Williamson was also angry at the Premier, saying Melbourne’s lockdown had turned him off voting for labour.
‘Melbourne is copping it, we’re the laughing stock and the rest of the world is back in business.
‘I’d normally vote labour but that Dan Andrews, he is an absolute flog.’