Victoria Police have defended their actions towards protesters at the International Mining and Resources Conference today after one protester was hospitalised and video emerged of officers hitting other protesters with batons to move them on.
Speaking to reporters, Victoria Police acting commander Tim Tully said that police had been “more than justified” in their response, having shown “a hell of a lot of discretion, a hell of a lot of tolerance.”
The ABC is reporting that around 250 people showed up at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre to protest the conference, which will be taking place there this week.
In Melbourne at huge rally against IMARC 2019 – an international mining conference. 400+ companies here responsible for 18% greenhouse gas emissions. Shocking worker exploitation, destruction indigenous communities. Police tactics disgraceful. They sent horses right into crowd. pic.twitter.com/LfdVkosUOF— Lee Rhiannon (@leerhiannon) October 28, 2019
Footage uploaded to Twitter showed mounted police using horses to attempt to break up groups of protesters who blockaded the entrance to the conference, with a 23-year-old woman taken to hospital with a leg injury after allegedly being struck by a police horse.
A disgusting display of police force this morning as people peacefully protest #IMARC.— Victorian Greens (@VictorianGreens) October 28, 2019
Victoria is clearly joining the rest of Australia in a crackdown on the right to protest + our democracy. The Victorian Labor Government is protecting corporations rather than our communities. pic.twitter.com/6KfzRxi88X
Due to multiple injuries reported today at the #IMARC protest including suspected broken bones we are calling upon @VictoriaPolice to immediately withdraw the mounted unit from crowded protest areas and prohibit their use on future days of the protest event.@ibacVic @VEOHRC pic.twitter.com/pYlmM72xqX— Melb Activist Legal (@ActivistLegal) October 29, 2019
Other footage appeared to show a police officer hitting a woman in the back with a baton while she was facing away from the officer with her hands raised.
Activist legal observer group Melbourne Activist Legal Support alleged that officers had been using batons and capsicum foam to force protesters to move, not in response to any violence on the part of the protesters.
Despite the crowds being loud and non-compliant, it appeared that the use of OC spray and batons was a measure to force compliance with a direction to move, rather than in response to violence or serious physical threat to police or bystanders.— Melb Activist Legal (@ActivistLegal) October 29, 2019
In a press conference, Tully said that pepper spray was used twice in the course of arrests made throughout the day. According to Tully, 50 arrests were made, the bulk of them for “offences relate to obstruction of the footpath or intentionally obstructing an emergency services worker.” Two arrests were made for alleged animal cruelty offences, with police accusing two protesters of having slapped police horses.
Protests are expected to continue throughout the week.