Police brutality at Sydney Mardi Gras?


 Last night I tweeted and shared a video of an incident at the Sydney Mardi Gras. The video appears to show a young man under arrest being detained by police. Whilst the video does not provide any insight in to what happened before the filming or the reasons why the young man was being arrested it is clear that the young man is distressed and already suffering a head wound.

Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop from ABC news reports,

Police have charged a teenager whose arrest has sparked allegations of police brutality at Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

A video posted on YouTube shows a policeman throwing the handcuffed 18-year-old to the ground and putting a foot into his back after the parade on Oxford Street on Saturday night.

The young man appears to have a head injury, and an officer repeatedly tells witnesses to stop filming as the man cries and cowers on the ground.

What happened between police and the man before the incident is not clear.

This morning New South Wales Police released a statement saying they had charged the man with assaulting police, resisting arrest and using offensive language.

He has been ordered to face court in April.    Click (here) for the full article.

The trial by social media of both the police officer and the young man has already begun.

Since the release of this video further reports of heavy handed police tactics have been reported. One man claims to have been thrown to the ground and kicked by five police for attempting to cross the road, after he had been ordered not to by a police officer.

Serkan Ozturk from Same Same reports that leading activist Bryn Hutchinson alleges he was kicked and stomped on by up to five police officers for attempting to cross the road after the end of the parade.    Click (here) for the full article.

“They then turned me onto my front and pressed my face into the road, held me tightly by putting my arms behind my back and then folded my legs up. That’s when a number of police officers kicked me. There was approximately three. I couldn’t see them all but witnesses have told me since that there was up to five of them”.

Violence perpetrated by police against the GLBTI community is nothing new. In fact the reason Mardi Gras began in Sydney was as a response to heavy handed and brutal police tactics used against the GLBTI community. On the 24th of June 1978 a celebration and commemoration of the Stonewall riots grew from 500 people to 2000 people on Oxford st calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals and a repeals of anti-gay laws. The march was broken up by police who arrested 53 people.

The police are there to enforce the law, if you ignore an order not to cross the road then you should expect a reaction. But what kind of force is justifiable? Does the officer know if the perpetrator is carrying a weapon, under the influence, or feeling violent. How much force is required to neutralise the situation in a manner that is safe for both them and the person they are detaining?  Was is really necessary to throw the young man to the ground, handcuffed so hard that the video’s audio captured the crack of his skull on the concrete, risking brain injury, concussion and even death?  These are questions I am not qualified to answer but which I am sure will be under discussion in the coming investigations.

What is also concerning is the use of intimidation against the cameraman who is told to stop filming “coz I said so”.

“Coz I said so”, is not an acceptable response from an officer who has been asked “under what law”. If our law enforcement is to be subject to the rules of “coz I said so” then we are on dangerous ground indeed.

The police do a hard thankless job everyday. It’s not fair to paint the whole force with the same brush, but serving and protecting the community means everyone, not just the people you like. It also means serving and protecting those in your charge and care, throwing a guy half your sized to the ground achieves nothing.

Great progress has been made by brave members of both the community and the police force to increase understanding and tolerance. This years parade featured a strong police contingent marching in support of the community. The police now march regularly at pride events around the country. There is no doubt that the reports coming from this years Mardi Gras will again shake the communities faith in those that are supposed to protect us.