More than 100 Victorian police viciously attacked a peaceful protest in support of Palestine on July 1. People were peacefully protesting outside the 100% Israeli-owned Max Brenner Chocolates store when police charged the demonstration.
At first, the police targeted people who were leading the protest and holding megaphones.
After picking off protest leaders, the police charged sections of the crowd to separate those who had linked arms.
Later, the police charged two lines of people who had linked arms outside the Max Brenner store.
Using the dangerous “kettle” tactic, the police charged the demonstration on all four sides, leading to protesters collapsing on top of each other.
This resulted in one woman being crushed and hurting her arm. Others suffered bruising and other injuries. Police also used an illegal pressure point hold on the neck of at least one protester. The attack was unprovoked.
Twenty-one protesters were arrested, with most charged with “besetting a premises” and banned from entering the Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria Village shopping centres in Melbourne’s CBD.
The protest was one of several recent protests organised by Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid as part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Previous BDS demonstrations at the Melbourne Central shopping centre successfully shut down the Israeli-owend Jericho (now renamed Black Pearl) cosmetics company.
Max Brenner Chocolates was targeted because it is owned by the Strauss Group, the second largest Israeli food and beverage company. The company boasts on its website that it has supported the Golany reconnaissance platoon of the Israeli Army for more than 30 years.
At a previous demonstration, the police arrested a few protesters but let them off with fines. The police attack on July 1 was a serious escalation of force in an attempt to end the protests.
The charge of besetting a premises is a much more serious charge and can result in a three-month jail term.
The police had told protesters that they would “probably” be charged with trespass, referring to warning signs which had been posted around the Queen Victoria Village building and Melbourne Central shopping centre, stating that “people who propose to demonstrate disapproval of the political or social interests of a retail tenant” would be prohibited from entering.
The unexpected viciousness of the police attack on a peaceful political protest indicates that the police have decided to take a harsher approach to protests.
A refugee rights protest was also attacked outside the Maribyrnong Detention Centre on May 29. That police assault was also unprovoked.
Victoria’s Baillieu Coalition government has made law and order its central focus, while doing little about issues that are seriously effecting many Victorians such as a dysfunctional public transport system, skyrocketing utility prices and underfunded mental health and other health services.
There seems to be plenty of money available for more police and new prisons but none for underfunded services.
Protesters vowed that the police attack would not deter them from returning to protest against Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinians.