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Victoria Police launch Wild West-style manhunt for lockdown protesters but protect super spreaders

Victoria Police has launched an extraordinary manhunt for young lockdown protesters who wielded flares at last weekend's protests. 

'Flare Fools Wanted' screamed the front page of Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper after a force command 'drop' of images detectives wished to capture. 

Cue Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius - Victoria Police's firebrand mouth piece his boss rolls out every time their political masters demand a witch hunt. 

Victoria Police has published a series of 'wanted' photos, which were splashed across the front of a Melbourne newspaper

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Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius addresses the media during a press conference.  He is the same cop who last year labelled lockdown protesters the 'tinfoil hat wearing brigade'.

Anti-lockdown protestors are seen during a protest in the Melbourne CBD last Saturday

Mr Cornelius branded protesters as 'selfish' and 'self-indulgent' demonstrators whose actions risked the very lives of every Victorian.

He is the same cop who last year labelled lockdown protesters the 'tinfoil hat wearing brigade'. 

Thousands had turned-up at Saturday's CBD rally, which was sparked by Victoria's fifth hard lockdown since the pandemic began last year. 

While not condoning the actions of the protesters, the hypocrisy of Victoria Police in throwing individuals to the wolves is astounding. 

Flares are dangerous, Mr Cornelius reminded Victorians. 

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It was May 2019 when Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius made the extraordinary move to boot his own men. 

He faced the press to admit police 'stuffed up' a raid on LGBTI bookshop Hares & Hyenas in Fitzroy and personally visited the shop to apologise to a man he believed police had wrongly bashed.

Police had stormed the apartment attached to the bookshop on Johnston Street searching for what residents were told was an 'armed member of a 'Lebanese' gang'. 

Nik Dimopoulos ended up with a shattered arm. 

In February, it was revealed Victoria Police stood by the actions its officer Mr Cornelius had publicly attacked years earlier.  

'Flares burn at more than 1000C and pose a serious risk when discharged in crowded spaces,' the spiel went.

Police warned those that set off flares at the protest 'endangered not only police but people in the vicinity'.

This lot faced fines of up to $18,174 and would be charged under the Dangerous Goods Act.

On Tuesday, it was revealed the New South Wales removalists who sparked Victoria's fifth lockdown would not be charged.

In fact, they walked scot free with a $200 fine from Premier Daniel Andrews' health department. 

This was despite footage showing them breaching their workers’ permits by not wearing masks and failing to socially distance outside Maribyrnong’s Ariele Apartments on July 8. 

The premier and his cronies had talked tough back then as they justified the breach to lock down Victorians. 

'The book would be thrown at them', Victorians were promised. 

Roll forward to Tuesday - the day before Victorians were to be set free - and the matter was quietly put to bed. 

'We’re all human and it is challenging and, you know, everyone’s got an excuse for not doing this and perhaps doing that,' Mr Andrews squeaked. 

Commissioner Shane Patton claimed police were only ever assisting the health department with its investigation. 

A protester with a smoke flare on Spring Street during the Freedom protest on July 24 in Melbourne 

A protester with a smoke flare during the Melbourne protest on July 24

People who lit flares at a Melbourne protest have become the hunted

The only footage that was released of the super spreading removalists came from Channel 7, which dug up CCTV and aired it without police assistance. 

Meanwhile, Mr Patton's men arrested and fined a publican on the Victorian-NSW border nearly $22,000 for openly flouting health directions. 

When it came to last weekend's protesters, the premier used much stronger language, declaring he didn’t know what 'half of them' were protesting about. 

But let us take a look at Victoria Police's behaviour during the early days of the pandemic last year, when books were to be thrown and lives were at risk.  

A protester approaches police officers during the 'Freedom Rally' on July 24

An anti-lockdown protester waves a flare during the protest last weekend

Mr Patton - a no nonsense cop admired for his street cred among members - has made it well known he doesn't get involved in political games. 

The same might not be said of his underling Mr Cornelius, who has a long history of seemingly towing the political chain of the Victorian premier. 

On June 6 last year, as Victorians went into what would be the longest lockdown in human history, thousands of protesters hit the streets of Melbourne in the 'Black Lives Matter' protest. 

Police stood back and watched on as thousands marched along Melbourne's streets following the death of Black American George Floyd at the knee of police. 

A month after it happened, the premier blamed the protest on police. 

'We indicated to everybody involved that they should not be protesting, it’s not time for a protest, make your point some other way,' Mr Andrews told Triple M radio on July 8.

'I don’t think you do your cause any good by going out and protesting.

'But look, police made the call that the notion of trying to arrest 10,000 people was just not something that could be practically done.'

Since then, Victoria Police has embarked on a massive show of force on Melbourne's streets.

Each time, it has been Mr Patton's assistant commissioner, Luke Cornelius, behind the microphone.  

'I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit,' he crowed last year. 'I'm sick of it.' 

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Black Lives Matter Protestors march through the city of Melbourne on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

Flinders Street Station in Melbourne became a meeting place for Black Lives Matters protesters as Victoria entered lockdown last year 

The rant came as Dandenong residents all decided to take walks at the same time. 

'They're taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their ridiculous notions about so called sovereign citizens, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids,' he said of a previous protest.

'I mean it's just crazy, it's batsh*t crazy nonsense.'

On Wednesday, he again presented as if he was reading from a script delivered directly from Daniel Andrews' office. 

It's little wonder a Roy Morgan snap SMS survey on Victoria’s Stage Four restrictions last year suggested Victoria Police had suffered a public relations nightmare amid disturbing allegations of heavy handed tactics.

The results results indicated only 42 per cent of Victorians now rated Victoria Police highly for their ethics and honesty compared to to a record high 76 percent in mid-2017. 

As Victorians emerge from their fifth lockdown to the 'wanted posters' of Victorians most likely at wits end, many will rightfully wonder: 'what isn't batsh*t crazy anymore'. 

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