NSW police forced to apologise after strip searching activists

The two activists were arrested and strip searched after a November 2017 rally against the federal government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

The Commander of the Inner West Police Area Command apologised to Socialist Alliance members Rachel Evans and Susan Price on September 11 for the “distress and embarrassment” suffered during their arrest in 2017, after the matter was resolved in a confidential settlement.

The two activists were arrested at a November 2017 rally against the federal government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and taken to Newtown police station, where they were subjected to strip searches before being released without charge.

“We were peacefully protesting when police grabbed us and put us in the back of a police van,” Price told Green Left Weekly.

“We didn’t understand what we were being arrested for, weren’t told where we were being taken, or what we were being charged with.

“When we arrived at the police station, I was taken out of the van first and led into a cell and told I would have to undergo a strip search. 

“As well as being directed to remove my clothes, the police officers told me to turn around and squat. 

“It was a shocking and humiliating experience.”

Despite the ordeal, both activists say they have not been deterred from continuing to protest against the government’s treatment of refugees.

Evans told GLW: “What happened to us was a violation and felt to us like intimidation or punishment for just exercising our right to protest.

“Police should not be able to strip search as a matter of course. There clearly needs to be changes to the laws and police powers in this regard.”

A recent report by University of NSW law academics Dr Michael Grewcock and Dr Vicki Sentas found a 20-fold rise in strip searches conducted by NSW police in the past 12 years and a 46.8% rise in the 4 years to 2019.

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