Only restricted aircraft will be able to fly over Melbourne until next week after Victoria Police cleared the sky to respond to protestors after making hundreds of arrests.
Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protestors caused defiant scenes in the city for a third day on Wednesday when up to 400 demonstrators clashed with heavily armoured police officers.
Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said police arrested more than 200 people who would receive infringement notices while some were charged with carrying flares and throwing items at police.
The protests began on Monday with many demonstrators opposing an order for construction workers to be vaccinated, and continued on Tuesday following a shutdown of construction, but Guenther said there were fewer tradies at Wednesday’s rally.
“The group seemed much more mixed in terms of their motivation which we are yet to establish,” he said.
Two officers suffered head injuries and another was hospitalised with chest pain due to the protests.
“Our primary role as police officers every day is to protect the broader community; it’s difficult to do our best in that regard when so many of our people are pulled away to address this issue,” Guenther said.
“My observation is that it was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the shrine, which is such a hallowed ground in this great city.”
Shrine of Remembrance chief Dean Lee told the Herald Sun he was “speechless and appalled”.
“I cannot comprehend the selfishness of people who would come to this sacred place and do this,” Lee said. “It’s the most disgusting behaviour I could ever imagine witnessing here.”
Victoria Police asked the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to restrict airspace within three nautical miles around the CBD from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday.
The police originally asked for the restricted airspace because live news footage was putting officers at-risk, but exemptions were made for news helicopters to enter the airspace but footage to be delayed.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said pilots were notified of the restrictions, which apply up to 2500 feet.
“Victoria Police applied for it on the basis that they have a large number of helicopter operations in that area,” Gibson said.
“They said in the interests of public safety it was better not to have any traffic there and that’s what we agreed with.”
He said airspace restrictions were not unusual during police operations and major events and some aircraft could enter the area if pilots sought approval.