Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Police Violence Report: G20 Protestors attacked "unnecessary" and "unprovoked" by cops

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - Police used unnecessary force during G20: legal study

A report into the G20 actions in Melbourne in November 2006, has found police used an "excessive amount of force." Victoria's Federation of Community Legal Centres released the study, finding only a small proportion of protesters were acting provocatively over the three-day event. The study found a police baton charge on protesters outside the Melbourne Museum was "unnecessary" and "unprovoked"...

Victoria’s Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC) today called for improved police responses to future protests, following the release of the Federation’s Human Rights Observer Team’s Final Report on the protests surrounding the G20 Meeting.

Much of the violence was directed at protesters who posed little or no perceptible threat to officers' safety, the report says.


"At the barricades, a police officer took his baton all the way behind his back... and with a full swing hit a protester on the right of his temple," wrote one observer of an incident on Saturday afternoon at the corner of Collins Street and Alfred Place. "The protester was bleeding significantly... he fell back onto a woman and as a result she suffered a sprained ankle."

In the lead up to the G20 Meeting held in Melbourne from 17-19 November 2006, the FCLC established a Human Rights Observer (HRO) Team to critically monitor the response of Victoria Police to the protests. The HRO Team was an independent and non-partisan project with trained volunteer observers present over the 3 day meeting to monitor the police response to the protests and promote rights to peaceful protest and democracy.

The observer team wrote that "police authorities cannot justify or rationalise abuses by pointing to the poor conduct of some protesters". The Report found that there were numerous observed incidents of inappropriate use of force and potentially unlawful police behaviour towards some protesters.

These included dangerous overhead baton strikes, arbitrary arrests and the reported failure by police to issue warnings prior to a baton charge on a peaceful group of protesters.

Another observer reported seeing a man standing alone in Exhibition Street after protesters had vandalised a police truck. "This man was not threatening to the police in any way," the observer wrote. "The man was struck on the legs with a baton by a police officer. He was knocked to the ground. The police officer hit him about once more … members of the public who were clearly not demonstrators began screaming in distress and asking the officers to stop."

The Report notes several key improvements in Victoria Police’s response to the protests and commends Victoria Police on its willingness to review and improve its practices. It also makes recommendations as to how police responses to future protests may be improved.

Federation of Community Legal Centres’ Executive Officer Hugh de Kretser said the project was an important tool in protecting basic human rights: "This report contains analysis and recommendations about improving policing practices. We look forward to working constructively with Victoria Police to promote greater safety for police, protesters and the community and to better protect our rights to peaceful protest and democracy."

Police should also provide assistance to injured persons as soon as possible during protest events, even if the person has been injured as a result of police action, the team says. "Rights to democracy and peaceful protest are fundamental to our society. The police response to protests can either undermine or strengthen our democracy," said Hugh de Kretser.

In March, it was revealed that people allegedly injured by police in the November violence had received confidential sums. Recipients included bystanders, tourists and elderly protesters.

Download the Full Report as a PDF here:


Further information:
Anthony Kelly - Author of report and co-ordinator of HRO team - 0407 815 333
Hugh de Kretser - Executive Officer - 0403 965 340

Media Release - PDF
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic.) Inc
Final Report: G20 Protests - PDF
The Age
Coverage of the G20 actions in Melbourne - Engage Media
G20 Activist Forum
Solidarity with g20 arrestees - Melbourne Indymedia
A Space Outside - interactions with radical thinkers
Police attack G20 protesters at Melbourne Museum - November 19, 2006

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