The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has slammed plans to foil the Occupy Melbourne movement by banning participants from the CBD.
Following riot squad intervention into the protests on Friday (21 October), which resulted in numerous arrests, a notice was issued to those charged that their presence in City Square or its environs would likely be a "breach of the peace" and could result in arrest.
Handed down by George Buchhorn, a senior sergeant of police, the notice purported to ban those individuals from being in the CBD area until 23 November. If individuals do come into the area, the notice said, they could be arrested for "obstructing police in the execution of their duty".
However, ALA national president Greg Barns said the notice is likely to be unenforceable, adding that it is a gross breach of the right to freedom of movement and freedom of speech.
"There is no statutory power being utilised - only an ancient common law right that many courts would be unlikely to enforce in 2011," said Barns.
"This notice is not only offensive, but ridiculous and bizarre ... the Baillieu Government and the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle appear to be taking lessons from the notorious Bjelke Petersen era in 1970s Queensland."
The commotion in Melbourne was sparked after around 100 demonstrators, who had been protesting in a global campaign against inequality and corporate greed, defied an order to leave. A police contingent, including the riot squad, began dragging protesters out of City Square and cleared the area within 10 minutes.
Leaders of the Occupy Melbourne group have called on the Victorian Ombudsman to investigate over 40 instances of alleged police violence against demonstrators.
The group said its lawyers have 43 statements listing injuries inflicted by police on protesters, including eye-gouging, punches to the face and head, and the use of pepper spray on children as young as 14.
The ALA warned that the removal by Victorian police of protestors may lead to claims for compensation for injuries to protestors.
While acknowledging there is a balance between the right to protest and the right of citizens to go about their lawful business, the ALA raised concerns that some police handled the situation in a "heavy-handed" fashion.
"Images of police on horseback charging through crowds and dragging protestors along the ground are not consistent with the sort of restraint one is entitled to respect from the police force," said Barns.
"Protestors who have suffered from injuries that amount to more than grazes and bruising may be able to take actions against Victoria Police if those actions went beyond what would be considered reasonable force, or if the person injured was not in any way obstructing police."
The ALA also questioned the readiness of Doyle and Baillieu to authorise the use of violence and force to remove protestors.
"It does not augur well for future protests in Victoria," said Barns.
On Wednesday (October 26), the Queen will arrive in Melbourne and protesters are considering turning their attention towards her visit.
Jason Grech, spokesperson for Occupy Melbourne, said the "grassroots movement" will gather tomorrow evening (25 October) at the State Library to discuss what its next moves will be.
"There are discussions going on about appropriate way to communicate our message to our monarch," Grech told Melbourne radio this morning (24 October).