Community angry at inaction on police violence

March 21, 2013
1500-strong rally on March 8. Photo: Peter Boyle

About 200 people attended a community forum on March 19 to discuss the future of policing at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. It was organised in response to community outrage over violent arrests at this year's parade.

The forum was called by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the AIDS Council of NSW, Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Inner City Legal Centre, NSW Police and independent MLC Alex Greenwich.

The forum tried to corral community outrage after the bashing of 18-year-old Jamie Jackson and 34-year-old Bryn Hutchinson at the Mardi Gras this month. A video showing Jackson being beaten by police has been viewed more than 1.7 million times on YouTube.

Jackson and Hutchinson have been charged with assaulting police, and Jackson faces an additional charge of resisting arrest and swearing.

The forum came after a 1500-strong rally against police violence was organised by Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH). The rally called for the charges to be dropped, an external inquiry into the violence and for a formal apology from police.

Police officers and representatives from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community spoke at the forum.

Chief superintendent and NSW spokesperson for LGBTI issues Donna Adney and Surry Hills Local Area Commander Superintendent Tony Crandell spoke on behalf of the police.

Mardi Gras co-chairs Siri Kommendahl and Peter Urmson, ACON president Mark Orr and Greenwich also spoke.

The forum elicited story after story from the LGBTI community of assaults and over-policing. The forum exposed what had been hidden, such as Mardi Gras attendees being verbally and physically assaulted trying to cross the road, sniffer dogs being used against party-goers, gay leather men at Mardi Gras being told to cover up and police not taking complaints seriously.

CAAH co-convener Karl Hand told Green Left Weekly: "The audience was outspoken and outraged at police violence. We heard many horror stories.

"I was disappointed, but not surprised, that leaders from the NSW police, New Mardi Gras and Alex Greenwhich told us to submit to an internal inquiry with ombudsman oversight.

“It was explained that police who tasered Brazilian student Roberto Curti to death underwent an internal investigation, with the Ombudsman expressing concern at the inquiry. But no police officer was charged.

“Being a police forum, we did not expect them to agree. But police should not investigate police. Activists got a huge cheer for advocating an external inquiry. We got a huge cheer for demanding the police drop the spurious charges against the victims of the bashings.

“On the bright side, something has been reawakened in our community, and a firm message has been given to the cops — you are on notice. Stop bullying us. Court dates are coming up for Bryn and Jamie — we will not remain silent."

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