Secret way coronavirus protests are being organised
Anti-lockdown protesters are again trying to outsmart police by using encrypted messaging to conceal the location of illegal rallies across Melbourne.
The police force is facing a third weekend of trying to break up illegal protests with multiple demonstrations planned for Saturday and Sunday.
It comes after 74 people were arrested and 176 fined for breaching the chief health officer's restrictions at a protest at Queen Victoria Market last Sunday.
The rallies have been marred by ugly and violent clashes between police and protesters.
Organisers are potentially eyeing off another location this weekend, with police likely to have a heavy presence at the Shrine of Remembrance, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the market, which have been the locations of previous demonstrations.
But the meeting points for this weekend's protests won't be announced until 30 minutes before they are due to start as organisers try to catch police off guard.
"Be ready to move in FAST," one poster promoting Saturday's rally says.
The "freedom day" event for Saturday has been scheduled to start at noon, and organisers say the location will be announced via video. The video is expected to be circulated via encrypted messaging chat groups.
"It is going to be a nice 25C. Some members of society will choose to be dressed in all black armour, let's see if we can change their minds and inspire them to rise up and put down their shields," the advertisement says.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said on 3AW radio the force was aware and ready for the protests.
He said one of the organisers had sent an email to police advising them that if police refused to allow the protest they would be "jeopardising the safety of others and Victoria Police would be putting all Victorians at risk".
"Unfortunately, we're just going to have to continue to drag police off other functions and other roles to police these people in the city," he said on 3AW.
"We'll just continue to enforce, I mean, the moment they turn up to protest it's a criminal offence."
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News that the government's message was unchanged.
"We respect the democratic rights but the method has to be safe and the mass protests are not safe," he said.
"They put people at risk, please do not do it."
Mr Hunt said there were many ways to express democratic views, including online and outside of your door.
"There are powerful vehicles but protesting in a group, at this time, is not safe," he said.
"It's the same message we had in June and the same message we've had ever since."
Originally published as Secret way protests are being organised