Victoria’s environment minister has endorsed a police call for climate activists to abandon a planned protest on the state’s next high fire danger day.
The demonstration has been set down for Friday night in Melbourne’s CBD in response to the bushfires which have blackened more than 1.2 million hectares of Victoria.
Authorities on Wednesday urged Uni Students for Climate Justice organisers to call off the action, change the date or at least confine it to one spot.
They say the protesters so far are not budging.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio says people can protest but Friday is not the day given there is a heat spike expected and emergency services personnel are needed to help fight fires.
“People are entitled to protest, absolutely, but the timing is wrong,” she told reporters while at the airport to greet North American firefighters coming to help.
“People are recovering, trying to recover, at the same time they’re preparing for another spike event.”
The last thing emergency services need is people “deviated or distracted” by the well-meaning but poorly timed protest, she added.
While police are duty-bound to provide a well-sourced contingency for a public protest, Acting Assistant Commissioner Tim Hansen also said Friday is not a good time.
“This is a distraction for us. We see frontline staff returning from the fire ground … fatigued, that do need a break and this is now another operation we need to resource,” he told reporters.
“We are frustrated by this protest timing and we are also frustrated by the lack of flexibility by the protest organisers to work with us in trying to find a more suitable time.
“These are unprecedented times for emergency services.”
The protest is expected to draw thousands of people who believe the fires are the result of decades of climate destruction.
“We need to take action. We need demonstrations because these fires are happening,” organiser Anneke Demanuele told 3AW prior to the government’s call to stop.