A protest was held on February 18 in response to the City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments that ban any form of public camping and make it easier for the confiscation of unattended property — essentially criminalising rough sleepers in the streets of Melbourne.
The protest, which lasted all night, was held during Melbourne’s White Night, which typically attracts massive crowds in the city. It involved a number of protesters converging on the steps of the State Library with placards and banners reading “Homelessness is not a Crime”, “No Homeless Ban” and “Resign Robert Doyle”.
Throughout the protest there were chants, such as “Melbourne City is for all, not just for Town Hall” and “Homelessness is not a crime”.
The protest also served as an opportunity for people to speak about their personal experiences with homelessness and condemn the new council laws. People also spoke about what needs to be done to solve the issues of homelessness; one of the most common demands raised during the protest was for public housing.
The campaign against the changes to the by-laws effectively criminalising homelessness is on-going and more information can be found here.
The next action will take place outside Melbourne Town Hall on March 3 from 4 pm. Protesters are planning to sleep outside Town Hall and encourage people to bring food in response to Melbourne City Council running a campaign to discourage people giving money to the homeless.
The council has opened the changes to the law to a period of community consultation from February 16 to March 17. People can make submissions about the new laws here.