A VETERAN says concrete bollards earmarked for Anzac Day marches are an exaggerated response to safety concerns.
The bollards will be used for the first time at Bendigo and Eaglehawk marches this year under new Victoria Police and state government safety guidelines to protect pedestrians from cars.
The use of bollards was "offensive" to servicemen and women planning to pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, Vietnam Veterans Association Bendigo president Paul Penno said.
"We see the imposition of barriers to hide behind on Anzac Day as a disgrace and a moral victory to those who wish to oppress us," he said.
"Democracy is all about freedom of speech and movement.
"Being able to move freely about and gather in the public domain is what democracy is all about."
Mr Penno feared concrete barriers could send an inadvertent message to people about their safety and unnecessarily encourage distrust, including towards Muslims.
About 40 veterans learnt about plans for the bollards during a VVA Bendigo sub-branch meeting and were "unanimously opposed" on the grounds the security barriers were overly risk adverse, Mr Penno said.
Bendigo police officer Craig Gaffee said the decision to use concrete barriers was not necessarily about preventing incidents like terrorist attacks.
There was no known threat of those sorts to Victoria, he said, though they were always a risk.
Police supported any strategy that kept pedestrians separate from cars at major events because it kept them from any injuries, Acting Inspector Gaffee said.
"As boring as this sounds, it's really about increasing safety for everyone," he said.
Mr Penno said road closure signs, which had been used at past Bendigo and Eaglehawk marches, were more appropriate for Anzac Day services.
On Sunday, Bendigo RSL president Peter Swandale said he was not opposed to the barriers because safety needed to come first, but expressed concern about the additional costs they could place on groups organising community events.
He met with City of Greater Bendigo staff on Wednesday to discuss how and who could pay for bollards at the Bendgo march.
Mr Swandale said it was a positive meeting and was confident of an equitable outcome, though nothing had yet been locked in.
Organisers had already agreed to pay for bollards at the Eaglehawk march. No concrete would be used at the Kangaroo Flat march, with the council instead preparing rolling road closures.
If bollards were forced on marches long term, Mr Penno hoped governments would foot the bill.
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