While hundreds of thousands of revelers had a grand old time at the Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend, there have also been reports of police brutality and excessive force.
In the video above, a man is detained by authorities, while witnesses try to get the name and badge number of the police and find out what he was being charged with. One officer appears to grab the man by his neck and slammed his head against the concrete—after he had already been handcuffed. “It sounded like a bowling ball hitting the ground,” said one onlooker.
Sydney Mardi Gras is the largest annual event in Australia and, while generally peaceful, sees an additional 1,000 officers stationed in the area to maintain the peace.
Other reports claim attendees at the Mardi Gras after-party were made to undergo strip searches by authorities. According to SameSame, some 200 people were searched and close to 100 people were charged with drug possession.
Bryn Hutchinson of the Australian marriage-equality group Community Action Against Homophobia, says he he was assaulted by a group of police officers on Oxford Street, some time after 11pm.
“I had begun crossing the road and was just about at the middle when a police officer approached me and told me not to cross the road.“Usually Oxford Street is open to foot traffic at that stage of the Parade. There was no signage or barriers, no marking tape.”
…Hutchinson, who stands at 169cm [5’5″] and weighs only 65 kgs [143lbs], said after a brief conversation with the police officer during which he said he was simply crossing the road he decided to continue to the other side.
“I can’t remember if he said anything more, but basically it was a verbal interchange and there was no physical contact. Then I was grabbed from behind by several police officers and then thrown onto the ground on my back. Then another police officer was leaning over me and threatening to charge me. I don’t know what he wanted to charge me with. I just kept saying I wanted to simply cross the road.
“They then turned me onto my front and pressed my face into the road, held me tightly by putting my arms behind my back and then folded my legs up. That’s when a number of police officers kicked me. There was approximately three. I couldn’t see them all but witnesses have told me since that there was up to five of them.
“I was hogtied and then they pushed my face into the concrete,” he adds.
“They were applying weight onto my back and I couldn’t breathe properly. I said I can’t breathe properly, and one of the officers said, ‘If you can talk, you can breathe’. I wasn’t resisting any sort of police intervention but I was really struggling to breathe. They didn’t stop applying the pressure and they had also kicked me.”
“I was still face down on the road when they handcuffed me,” he continues. “They put the cuffs on too tight, and have caused my wrists and hands to swell up and bruise. I screamed out, ‘You have the cuffs on too hard’. I also shouted very loudly, ‘What are you charging me with?’ Basically to get attention from the crowd as I was being beaten up by police.”
Hutchinson was then taken to a police station and charged with assaulting a police officer. He was told he put his leg around an officer in the back of the paddy wagon but has no recollection of it: “If they are charging me with assault police I find it bizarre they didn’t charge me with failure to comply with police directions or resisting arrest,” he told SameSame. “I think they decided to charge me as they realised they had taken things too far by kicking me and are maybe trying to intimidate me.”
Some witnesses are confirming the authorities used excessive force against Hutchinson. “This didn’t seem like a gay bashing, but it was because the guy wasn’t cooperating with police they used force—and then it was out of control,” said onlooker Tim Mayer. “I definitely 100% saw the kick and stomp. Everyone sort of gasped.”
Another said Hutchinson appeared intoxicated, though he admits to only having “a few drinks.”
“I thought he was drunk, but I was making an assumption as it appeared that his weight was being held by the two officers on each of his arms. I looked away and when I looked back I saw four to five cops seemingly pinning him down on the road. I just assumed he had started hitting them but still thought that it was a bit excessive to have that many cops for one guy,” the witness said.
“Then I saw the man had his leg wrapped around one of the cop’s legs and wouldn’t let go so the cop hit or punched the guy’s leg a couple times before stomping his own foot on the ground in an attempt to get the guy to let go. Then one of the other cops did something that made the guy let go. Then all I could see was this huddle of cops around or over the guy who was still on the ground. They still seemed to be pinning him down.”
Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich says he has been informed of the incidents and is investigating any possible police misconduct.