It was “appropriate” for NSW Police to blast pepper spray on protestors after Saturday’s rally against Indigenous deaths in custody, according to Police Minister David Elliott, despite claims that police “trapped” demonstrators in a train station beforehand.
Speaking to Ben Fordham on 2GB Monday morning, Elliott said Saturday’s protests, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators to the Sydney CBD, passed with “few incidents to deal with”.
However, Elliott said NSW Police were within their rights to use pepper spray on a group of demonstrators in Central Station after the official protest had come to an end.
“It wasn’t unprovoked,” Elliott said, claiming that police told him some of “these kids” had broken windows and spat at police.
“So police responded,” he said.
“And I think that’s unfortunate, but it’s an appropriate response.”
Protestors allege that NSW Police officers corralled people into Central Station and prevented people from using the station’s main exit.
“We were all pushed and forced into that space, we were trapped,” one demonstrator told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
In a statement, NSW Police said a police vehicle was damaged the intersection of Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street, causing officers to direct a small crowd into the station.
Authorities claim protestors kicked and punched at officers in the front line, adding that an officer was struck by a can of drink, causing minor injuries.
Footage shows NSW Police using pepper spray on a group of protestors pushed against a line of officers, causing several people to fall to the ground in pain.
NSW Police eventually backed down, allowing the crowd to disperse through the station’s main exit.
“What actually was the tragedy out of the use of pepper spray, was that, of course, on the weekend we had actually a reasonably peaceful protest,” Elliott said.
“But we had people who wanted to push the envelope.”
A 21-year-old man was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting police, and will face court in August.
Earlier, NSW Police Acting Commissioner Mal Lanyon also backed the police’s use of pepper spray.
NSW Police have been contacted for further comment.
You can listen to Elliott’s full interview here.