Police clash with protesters on the site of the F19 (Eastern Freeway) in November 1977.

Police clash with protesters on the site of the F19 (Eastern Freeway) in November 1977.

More than three decades ago, a 23-year-old Tony Murphy was unceremoniously dragged across Alexandra Parade with a bicycle horn on his pocket.

It was November 1977 and he and other young demonstrators had turned out in their hundreds to protest against the construction of the Eastern Freeway. The group barricaded Alexandra Parade with car carcasses, old furniture and broken fridges, until they were overpowered by police. A photographer from The Age captured Mr Murphy being hauled away by his legs.

''It was pretty close to the last stand,'' he remembers. ''We had just linked arms across the road before we were dragged off.''

While police had their measure that day, it seems the old-time demonstrators are back for the second round, 36 years later, over the freeway's extension, the east-west link.

On Wednesday Mr Murphy was back in Fitzroy perched on the top of a hydraulic drill. Wearing a cycling helmet ''for safety reasons'', the handyman had stormed the worksite with three others. ''Then and now the issue was the same. It was deciding between [roads] and Doncaster rail,'' the 59-year-old said.

Mr Murphy is not the only old-time public transport advocate who has re-emerged and dusted themselves off for another fight.

Fitzroy retiree Ian Hall still remembers watching the mayor of Fitzroy, Bill Peterson, being dragged off the road in all his mayoral finery when he attended the Alexandra Parade blockade in 1977.

On Wednesday - sporting a golf-ball sized lump on his arm care of the police - Mr Hall, 63, said he has also rallied against the Vietnam War and more recently, for the protection of Melbourne's heritage buildings

''I don't know what a professional protester is,'' he said. ''But I like the word serial pest just because in definition, Nelson Mandela would have been a serial pest.''