What was intended as a peaceful protest against the unlawful destruction of the Palace Theatre interior temporarily descended into violence last night, after three unidentified interlopers approached activists and attempted to interrupt their protest.
As Tone Deaf reported yesterday afternoon, a peaceful protest was organised by members of the Save The Palace grassroots group after they and members of the Melbourne Heritage Action obtained photos of rubble that was the result of a construction crew stripping the Palace interior without a permit.
“The rally was held because the development company has secretly started demolishing the inside of the building despite lacking a permit to do so and knowing that the council was deliberating whether the 100 year-old theatre should be heritage listed,” writes YouTube user dodgyville.
“Three men, seemingly on drugs and allegedly young Liberals, attacked the peaceful protesters outside the Palace Theatre. Luckily there was only a small handful of them. They fought repeatedly, tried to intimidate us, yelled homophobic slurs, tried to steal the PA system, smashed one person’s phone, and then ran.”
“It was hard to figure out what they wanted, they yelled some stuff about ‘anti-development fuckheads’ [see the footage below], but they mixed it in with a healthy number of appalling homophobic slurs,” they add.
“Protestors reacted in self-defense to restrain the aggressors when they were assaulting other members of the group or attempting to damage the equipment. The police arrived and one of the provokers was arrested whilst the other two ran away. The protest continued on peacefully,” wrote protestor Ben Mathews in a statement.
According to Mathews, “They were not there by accident and it’s very questionable whether they were sent in by the developers to promote violence and create bad PR for the Save The Palace campaign. The desperate cries of a developer losing their battle to destroy an iconic building.”
Footage of the incident depicts three men seemingly antagonising protestors, with one shouting in support of the developers and claiming the issue is one of “public housing”, before the fight spills out into Bourke St, with protestors yelling at the men to get out of the road.
The beloved venue has been boarded up since May, becoming the site of numerous vigils and protests opposing the actions of Jinshan Investments, the site’s new owners. Last month, a meeting of the Future Melbourne Committee yielded a 6-5 vote to explore local heritage protection for the Palace Theatre.
According to a statement, “The City of Melbourne’s Planning Enforcement and Building Surveying officers are investigating the removal of some of the Palace Theatre’s interior fabric. We have not been able to access the interior of the building at this stage, however it would appear some sections of plaster and some internal doors have been removed.”
However, the statement also claims that city council is “pursuing interim heritage protection for the interior of the Palace Theatre”. Interim Protection Orders (IPOs) can be made under the Heritage Act 1995 to protect places/objects of state level significance which are under immediate or imminent threat.