Post Mardi Gras Police Blues

Riot police at Mardi Gras: Facebook pic by Justin

Riot police at Mardi Gras: Facebook pic by Justin

Several stories of rough treatment of revellers by NSW Police at Sydney Mardi Gras have emerged on Facebook . Justin posted:

I was at Mardi Gras over the weekend and this is what I encountered, whilst trying to get to the march, a police officer only let me through because I was with a float and said if he catches me taking photos he’ll arrest me…

Have we progressed much? This was around the same area a man was bashed by 5 police officers, no wonder they didn’t want me to take photos… BTW that’s the police riot squad blocking the street.

Then more serious allegations began:

I’m looking for witnesses who saw the bashing of my friend by 5 police officers on Oxford St near the intersection of Crown St straight after the Parade approx. 11pm we believe.

We believe there were at least 3 or more people taking videos or photos. Please come forward if you know where to find them!! The police are making false charges against my friend, and those images will make all the difference in the world.

The poor guy called me late on Saturday night, describing how he was assaulted by police for simply crossing the road, was kicked and choked and tackled to the ground by police.

This story was picked up by Urban Society and SameSame. SameSame also has details of a second assault in which police are alleged to have bashed a young mans head onto the ground until he bled.

The Facebook stories kept coming:

My gf and I had multiple people.pushed into us by the police while us like many others were just trying to walk down the footpath. One officer in particular pushed a stumbling man off the road and quite hard straight into me.

Ive been a crowd controller for years and never would I put the drunk.person or the bystanders at risk of.injury like that. It was chaos.

The only way we would ever travel up again would be to watch from a hotel room. The news should show all the crap that went on after the parade!

It’s hard to avoid the impression that at least some of the officers on duty were actively looking to create an incident. Why they would wish to do that, we will probably never know. But the information so far available, which should be treated with caution, seems to suggest some police were indulging in ‘gay-baiting’, at the very least.

Let’s hope it was nothing more than a few bored and poorly-trained officers from the regions who don’t – yet – know any better. And that Command will swiftly enlighten them.

NSW Police have so far only made a statement in relation to one incident:

At 11:30pm on the 2nd of March, a 32-year-old man was arrested at the intersection of Oxford and Crown Streets, Surry Hills.

According to the spokesperson, the man was issued with Field Court Attendance Notice for Assaulting Police and will appear in Central Local Court on Friday 5 April 2013.

Investigations are continuing, including a review of available CCTV.

Let’s hope the police look into their own behaviour and report back openly and honestly. The vast majority of the cops on duty seem to have behaved properly and respectfully: it would be a shame if their reputation were to be tarnished by a few hoons in the ranks.

UPDATE: More now come to light in the Star Observer.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)