I attended a Climate change protest in Martin Place on Friday and the larger protest rally and march from Town Hall Square to Hyde Park on Saturday. I found the police presence to be overbearing, disproportionate, aggressive and intimidating and I found my beautiful city and its lively atmosphere reduced to that of a large town in a third world police state. We should not allow our government to suppress dissent and the public voice in this manner.
On Friday I witnessed the arrest of the man who squirted tomato sauce on a pro-Bush banner in Hyde Park. It reminded me of a pack of dogs attacking a rabbit. Numerous police armed to the teeth pushed the man to the ground, twisted his arms and wrist and jammed his face into the dirt and yelled and screamed at him with every second utterance containing variations of the word “f***”. It was nothing short of a cowardly assault. Apologies to individual police if they were “just following orders”.
The scene was frightening and deeply disturbing and presented to me as a totally disproportionate response by uniformed bullies in response to an incident that should have been dealt with by one or two police, a firm verbal request and a warning or demand of an apology.
In my view, the citizens of Sydney should resist this kind of power in the hands of police and should receive a retraction and apology for the ridiculous scare mongering by the Police Commissioner in the days preceding APEC. It looked like Sydney‘s version of “Children Overboard” and “WMD” to many of us who were there and witnessed a good-spirited and peaceful two days of protest and attempted expression of free speech.
This girl dancing on Town Hall steps was probably told to get down for her own safety but the police response (below) was over the top. Our photographer was pushed hard by a ring of police that surrounded the incident, and ordered to stop taking photographs.
The unnecessary arrest happened in front of children… how does that shape a young mind’s view of the Police?
Below: The Riot Squad rolled up to the back of the rally just as it was dispersing into Hyde Park, causing all the tail-enders and the media pack to turn back and have a look at this amazing spectacle, creating a long-running and tense standoff. The Riot Squad thus created the problem it was trying to solve. As one English tourist wrote in the Sun-Herald, in the UK they bring out the riot police only when there is an actual riot.
Above: One of several riot police with name badge removed (Velcro rectangle on left).
Below: Another riot policeman bearing chemical weaponry and wearing the squad’s signature ‘Darth Vader style’ leg protectors
Above: A close-up of the $600,000 water cannon. Note the video camera (top right) in recording mode.
Below: Police continue herding the rally into Hyde Park. An eyewitness overheard one policeman talking about the picture of Ghandi, saying “We should set fire to it”. Nice.