Police brutality at Mardi Gras ignites outrage

Image from viral video of police allegedly assaulting a young man.

About 1500 people rallied in Sydney on March 8 in protest against the alleged police violence at this year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Bryn Hutchinson, a former co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), alleges that five police officers slammed him to the ground, kicked him, shackled him and beat him when he tried to cross Oxford St after the parade had finished.

Hutchinson was then taken to Surry Hills police station and charged with “assaulting a police officer”. Hutchinson says he was handcuffed during the alleged attack by the officers.

The original 1978 demonstration that became Mardi Gras was organised in response to police violence and brutality against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) people. But this year, on the 35th anniversary of that first demonstration, it appears that not much has changed.

Hutchinson is not the only person accusing police of violence that night. On March 5, video footage was posted on YouTube of another young man who appeared to be thrown to the ground and stood on by a police officer while in handcuffs, as a crowd tried to defend him.

In the video, police can be heard repeatedly ordering the crowd to stop filming. This is despite there being no law restricting people from filming police. The video quickly went viral on the internet and drew a response from community leaders.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich called for a full police investigation.

Mardi Gars co-chair Peter Urmson expressed his concern: “I have just been made aware of two incidents at this years parade that involves police making arrests that are heavy handed. I have seen a disturbing YouTube video clip of a young guy been brutally arrested. We will look to address at the highest levels within the police force and seek an investigation. My thoughts are with the young persons involved and we will address.”

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell held a joint press conference with police to announce that the investigation would be carried out by the Ombudsman.

Human rights lawyer Dale Mills responded by saying the Ombudsman is “part of the problem.” The Ombudsman only operates as a “box ticker” who oversees an essentially internal investigation by police.

There have been many high-profile incidents of NSW police violence against LGBTI, Aboriginal or mentally ill people in recent years, and many more that have gone unreported. These include the case of Adam Salter who was shot dead by police in his home in western Sydney, the fatal tasering of Brazilian student Roberto Curti in Sydney’s CBD and the assault of Aboriginal man Corey Barker in a Ballina police cell in 2011.

CAAH has demanded the police officers involved be publicly held accountable.

CAAH said: “We do not want an internal police investigation, whether it is overseen by the Ombudsman or not. Their role is not to investigate, only to see if police investigated according to procedures.

“It is not of any use except to give the police a chance to say that their investigation has received the stamp of approval. We want real justice for the victims and a significant culture change that avoids the 'heavy handed' policing that was widely reported at this year's Mardi Gras.

“Under the Gillard and O’Farrell governments, and the watch of conservative police commissioner Scipione, and following on from post 9/11 paranoia and the police blitz on the occupy movement in 2011/12, senseless violence from the police seems to be on the rise towards a number of minority groups, including Aborigines and Muslims, and the right to protest has also been compromised.

“We demand an end to police violence against the LGBTI community and a full apology to Jamie Jackson and Bryn Hutchinson, and all victims of brutality at Mardi Gras 2013.”

[The protest will be held on March 8 at Taylor Square at 6pm.]



Comments

I watched the prelude to the viral recording from the mardi gras and then the subsequent video which was the prelude to the I am in my 50s and will be following this case as I am sure many others wilI be doing. I consider the police had the right to defend themselves during the period prior to the footage of this 18 year old being handcuffed and fully agree that the teenager SHOULD be charged in respect of that. Unfortunately, there is more that occurred BEFORE this latest video that we did not see and thus we don't know for sure just what the actions of police were BEFORE this fellow lashed out either. I wonder just how many are aware of the techniques and holds that police are specifically taught for inflicting pain to ensure compliance from the public, and whether any were applied to this young man immediately PRIOR to his lashing out. Unfortunately some of our police seem to be adopting a mentality of inflicting pain on those who have or may have done something wrong simply because they feel like it. If you doubt this, see the ABC news article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-13/lawyer-slams-police-for-tasering-14yo/4369976 Let us not forget that regardless of what went before the viral video, the officer should also merit consideration of a charge of CRIMINAL ASSAULT OCCASIONING BODILY HARM being brought against him. This of course is unlikely to happen once the spin and whitewashing starts. The action of slamming a person to the ground AFTER handcuffing their hands BEHIND their back is inexcusable and renders the officer no less guilty of being a criminal himself as far as I am concerned. Regardless of what went before, there was, and is, NO EXCUSE for what this officer did in the circumstances. It should not be seen as simply a case of excessive force. It only surprises me that the big brave officer didn't use a TASER to induce compliance in this hardened, hefty (he is noted as being 60 kilograms) and HANDCUFFED offender who obviously put him in fear of his life. This DINGO of an officer appeared to have this person in a painful neck grip, immediately prior to deliberately SLAMMING the unarmed, injured and RESTRAINED person to the pavement when that person did not have any capacity whatsoever to break their own fall due to the way they were restrained. This indicates to me a deliberate intent to cause pain, injury and/or suffering to the victim on the part of the officer. This deliberate action should be subject to a mandatory CRIMINAL MISCONDUCT investigation. (Please note the earlier comment regarding techniques and holds mentioned above. Try this neck hold on yourself and squeeze a little, feels great doesn't it!!! Would you idly accept it or would you try to stop it from being done to you?) From the information to hand thus far, this 18 year old had already suffered a head injury via the police BEFORE this cowardly action by the police officer. I note that he was slammed down onto SOLID CONCRETE PAVEMENT, already with an alleged head injury of which the attacking officer HAD BEEN MADE AWARE (going by the audio from the footage originally posted) then had this officer's foot placed in his back, holding his face against the pavement, and this WITH the previously sustained possible head injury and possible FURTHER head / neck injury at the hands of this officer. Did this officer call for medical attention for his victim or did he call for backup? From memory, ALL police communications are recorded and his transmissions should be brought into evidence at any court procedings regarding the matter. If he did call for medical assistance for the injured young man, well and good. If he did not, then at best he should be considered culpable in carrying out his duties and responsibilities, or more appropriately, criminally negligent. I note also that the officer tells the person filming to stop. When he is told by the person taking the footage that he is allowed to, the police officer responds "No you're not" the deliberate falsity of which also needs to be addressed by those in authority. He is THEIR representative after all and his actions reflect on his superiors. It is sad, though certainly understandable that those good police officers out there are increasingly being seen as tainted and/or untrustworthy in the eyes of the community due to a minority of officers in their midst who many would consider unfit to hold any position of authority and trust. I have posted most of this comment elsewhere several days ago, before the protest on 8 March. What is interesting is that total vindication from a NINE MSN website, which states: 'Four protesters held up a banner reading "all cops are bastards" outside the police station, which disappointed local area commander Superintendent Tony Crandell' While Mr Crandell told reporters outside the police station "I don't think that really promoted a meaningful message" it certainly lends credence to my comment about good officers being perceived as tainted doesn't it. Cheers Derek C.