In a surprise to precisely no one who actually knows what cops are like in Western Sydney, it seems police abused their powers to violently arrest people over COVID breaches that only require a fine. As in, going so far as to straddle a man and allegedly beat him. Tell me again that people in Western Sydney aren’t subjected to harsher treatment than other parts of this city.

Khaled Zreika, 21, and Hussein Zraika, 22, had just bought face masks at a servo in Guildford on September 24 when two NSW Police raptor squad officers walked up behind them and immediately tried to arrest them.

“Hey brother, how you going? No mask, both you boys,” one of the officers said, per The Sydney Morning Herald.

“You’re both under arrest … can you hop outside for us?”

Yep. Just like that.

When the men asked what they were being arrested for, the police officer pointed out they weren’t wearing a mask.

“Brother I just bought a mask, what are you saying ‘under arrest’,” Khaled Zreika said.

“Do you want to give me a fine? Give me a fine.”

In CCTV footage obtained by Zreika’s lawyers later, the men can be seen taking the conversation outside. When Khaled takes his phone out to make a call, a police officer grabs his arm, prompting Khaled to swear at him. The cops immediately escalate the situation, with the officers physically struggling with both men while one radios for urgent back up.

Following that, dozens of police show up. Footage shows one of the officers beating Hussein Zraika while straddling him, before saying: “you fucking move, I’ll knock you out, cunt”.

After handcuffing Hussein, the officer walks over to Khaled, who was on the ground, and knees him five times until he cries out in pain. Khaled is then handcuffed. All because he wasn’t wearing a mask. Three bystanders who tried to criticise the cops for being violent were also arrested.

In a media release at the time, police claimed they arrested men who were “associates of a criminal group” who “allegedly became aggressive towards police, with one of them punching an officer before a struggle ensued”, which obviously contradicts footage of what happened. The men were charged with an array of offences, including assaulting and resisting police.

This week, barrister Steve Boland, who is representing the total of five men that police arrested and charged, came out swinging against the state-sanctioned thugs who we call police. He called the incident “perhaps the most extraordinary example of police violence in this state” during the pandemic, per SMH.

Boland pointed out that police withdrew all charges except failing to wear a mask after lawyers retrieved the CCTV footage. Essentially, the cops are “liars”, per SMH.

I’ve written heaps in recent months about the harsher treatment of people in Western Sydney. From the government deploying the literal military to monitor marginalised people during lockdown, to the arrest of 25-year-old Bilal Ladkani who was defibrillated while in handcuffs after suffering a seizure during a mask-related arrest.

At the same time, people in the eastern suburbs were throwing illegal parties and foregoing masks in public places, without copping the same consequences.

And of course, there’s the fact that the NSW Government ignored official health advice to put the whole of Sydney under equal lockdown measures, instead targeting Western Sydney specifically. And let’s not forget when NSW’s former deputy premier John Barilaro actually said Western Sydney was only placed under a curfew because of media pressure.

People in Western Sydney are consistently dehumanised, dismissed and abused by either police, the government, or other more privileged folk in this state, and that leads to them suffering harsher, more punitive measures than anyone else in this state’s pandemic.

How many instances of unlawful arrest, police misconduct, double standards and general fuckery must Western Sydney endure before its plight is not only believed (and it’s fucking ridiculous that this denial is still even happening) but changed?

I honestly don’t have the answer. All I know is I’m fucking tired, and the general distrust and resistance towards the government that is now growing in marginalised groups is a direct response to class and racial subjucation that has always been here. The pandemic is just exposing it.