BY GEORGINA DAVIES
MELBOURNE — Victoria Police have agreed to pay $50,000 to seven environment activists who were assaulted during a peaceful demonstration by 20 people in February 1994. The East Gippsland Forest Alliance protesters are to receive between $3500 to $7500 each. The decision was described as a "landmark settlement" by the protesters legal representative Rachel Schutze.
Police used illegal and dangerous "pressure point" holds (which can cut the blood flow to the brain) on the protesters during a peaceful demonstration against the destruction of East Gippsland's old growth forests outside the Department of Conservation and Environment (DCE) offices in East Melbourne. Police made a brutal 15-minute attack — from behind and without warning.
According to the Australian Medical Association, the police tactics were "potentially lethal". They included neck gouges, eye gouges, the twisting of arms, hands and fingers, and throwing protesters head-first to the pavement.
The protesters and their legal representatives see the settlement as an acknowledgement by police that the tactics employed during the protest were not appropriate, and hope that "police will think twice" about using such tactics again. Schutze stated that the use of violent police tactics "should be banned".
However, no internal police investigation, policy review or disciplinary action will flow from the settlement. After a six and half year delay, police who have committed illegal acts of violence against peaceful protesters will walk away scot-free. Worse still, taxpayers will have to pay the compensation bill.