The Melbourne Street Medic Collective released this statement on July 19.
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On July 18, first aiders and medical professionals working as part of the Melbourne Street Medic Collective provided medical support to anti-racist/fascist protesters at the Rally Against Racism near the Victorian Parliament.
During the course of this rally, officers from Victoria Police deployed chemical weapons in the form of OC (pepper) spray against the crowd. As a result several people required urgent medical attention and eventually hospitalisation, directly as a result of exposure to the spray.
While providing assistance to a casualty experiencing respiratory distress and awaiting medical evacuation via Ambulance Victoria, medics from Melbourne Street Medic Collective were heavily sprayed with OC spray by Victoria Police officers.
This was done in spite of clear and loud instructions from the crowd and a protective ring of protesters around the medics and their casualty that the police were entering into a first aid treatment area and that someone was receiving medical attention there.
As Melbourne Street Medic Collective medic CJ Wallace said: "We heard the crowd screaming and yelling as they made a line to protect us from being trampled because we could not move.
“I could see medics yelling to the police not to attack as there were people on the ground. I heard people shouting ‘first aid space’ ‘medics are here’ and ‘people injured on the ground with medics’.
“But the police sprayed the crowd before directly spraying myself, my fellow medic and our injured casualty when we were all huddled on the ground."
The large cloud of OC spray vapour in the air is estimated to have affected around 100 people.
When OC spray was introduced for police use in Australia it was intended as a “less-lethal” alternative to deadly force, and was supposed to be used only when a senior officer determined their life was in immediate danger.
We allege that the use of chemical weapons against a crowd of protesters is unwarranted and unlawful, and was used indiscriminately against medical personnel and casualties who did not pose a threat to officers' safety.
Melbourne Street Medic Collective condemns Victoria Police's use of chemical weapons against protesters, especially to facilitate a rally organised by overt fascists and neo-nazis.
Melbourne Street Medic Collective calls for the officers in command of Public Order Response Team and of the event to immediately be suspended from their duties and investigations launched into how and why chemical weapons came to be used, and used against medics, injured persons and in treatment spaces.
Melbourne Street Medic Collective encourages all witnesses and concerned persons to lodge complaints with Victoria Police’s Conduct Unit and the Police Minister.
Police Conduct Unit
GPO Box 913
Melbourne VIC 3001
Telephone:1300 363 101