Occupy Melbourne and Police Violence

*Trigger warning for discussion (and links to footage) of violence, particularly police violence*

Sadly police violence is a given.  It’d be great to live in a world where police violence wasn’t the norm, particularly when it came to protests of various forms, but with protests against the establishment, particularly protests that go (or stay) where the establishment don’t want them to go (or stay), shit happens far too often.

What surprises me, especially now, is that the police are still violent towards protesters (or suspects of crime, or just people walking down the street) now that people have the ability to record the violence, put it on the internet and have everyone see around the world.  Especially in nations with an alleged rule of law, where the police are subject to oversight and have alleged rules and regulations that allegedly govern their conduct.

It seems to be a massive blind spot for many police forces around the world (though apparently some police have figured it out) that when people can film you, when it is not a witness’s word against the police’s, then the picture paints the shit in all it’s technicolour glory (that’s a lovely image) and people make up their own mind about the situation (as potentially will courts if legal action is taken).

Even when the police action is supported by the establishment, people don’t forget.  People don’t forget that the police aren’t their friends, that the government supports police brutality, and eventually learn to expect that eventually with protesting comes the risk of harm.

So this takes me to Occupy Melbourne, and the eviction of the protesters from Melbourne Square today.  Again I was horrified by witnessing police violence in the state and country in which I live.  I don’t understand the law in relation to trespassing on public property, not being a lawyer and all, but I wasn’t at all happy with the way things turned out.  The Occupy Melbourne camp was somewhat disorganised, but was peaceful.  Despite business concerns that the occupation of the site was driving away business, those who were occupying seemed to be quiet and not hugely messy when I travelled past there yesterday.

Today that changed.  Melbourne’s Mayor (former State Liberal Party Leader Robert Doyle), decided that it was time to move the protesters on so that the rest of the public could enjoy the Square (rectangle).

Assistant Commissioner Fontana says it was time for the protesters to be moved on.

“[They’ve had] more than ample time to make their point in terms of what their protest is about, and I think it’s time to give the city square back to the citizens of Melbourne,” she said. (ABC)

Because the people occupying that space aren’t citizens of Melbourne?

There is footage of a police officer punching someone in the head as they are dragged out of the crowd.  There is footage of the police riding their horses through the crowd, trampling a protester (or perhaps a bystander), and those who have been sprayed with capsicum spray.  There are plenty of photos of bleeding protesters.  There is footage of the police pulling protesters away from the crowd and dragging them away.

I see this response as disproportionate to the “threat” or civil disobedience displayed.  The suggestions that again police did not identify themselves when asked, and removed their name badges brings back the spectre of police misbehaviour during the S11 protests in 2000.  The lessons that should have been learnt that time clearly weren’t, and while working with the public, the Victorian Police again fail.

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