BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — An Australian gay and lesbian website says reports of two incidents of alleged police brutality have come to light following this weekend's Sydney Mardi Gras parade.
Samesame.com says gay activist Bryn Hutchinson alleges police kicked and stomped him after he attempted to cross a street at the end of the parade.
Hutchinson, a former co-convenor of the group Community Action Against Homophobia, says he had a brief conversation with police, who told him not to cross the road. Hutchinson says that the street is usually open to pedestrian traffic after the parade and that he told the officer he was only crossing the road. As he resumed crossing the street, he says, he was grabbed by several officers and thrown to the ground and was told he'd be charged.
“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," Hutchinson told Same Same. "That’s when a number of police officers kicked me. There were approximately three. I couldn’t see them all, but witnesses, since then, have told me that there was up to five of them. I was hogtied and then they pushed my face into the concrete."
Hutchinson says he wasn't "drunk or disorderly, or offensive or rude in any way."
Witnesses support Hutchinson's account of the incident, while Sydney MP Alex Greenwich says he's following up on the matter, the Same Same posting notes.
The website says that a witness, Tim Mayers, who contacted them about the incident said the confrontation "didn’t seem to be homophobic in nature," but he felt that the police reaction "certainly seemed brutal and unnecessary.
“This didn’t seem like a gaybashing, but it was because the guy wasn’t cooperating with police they used force … and then it was out of control,” he said. “I definitely, 100 percent saw the kick and stomp. Everyone sort of gasped.”
Greenwich says he's known Hutchinson for a number of years, calling him "a person who has always been diplomatic and worked co-operatively with police in his role with Community Action Against Homophobia, putting on regular marriage-equality rallies for the past few years.”
Same Same says they've also been contacted by a number of people who say they witnessed an alleged police assault on another man.
Same Same has posted a video of a man, with his hands behind his back, suddenly hitting the ground. A police officer is subsequently seen holding the man down with his foot as a number of voices are heard berating the officer for his treatment of the man.
According to one witness, the man was "picked up by the throat and slammed into the ground, with his head hitting the ground so hard it sounded like a bowling ball hitting the ground," adding "this was while he was in handcuffs.”
The man on the ground is heard crying and saying he did nothing wrong.
One person, off-camera, is heard saying, "We just saw you whack his head against the ground, his blood is on the ground because of you."
Another person, also off-camera, is heard saying, "That is so wrong."
From time to time, police approach the person filming the incident, telling him to stop. The videographer refuses to comply and asks the police what law he's breaking.
Gay Star News quotes Greenwich as saying that the local police around Sydney "have proven to be very supportive and worked well with the gay and lesbian community." Greenwich calls the footage "so surprising and concerning."
The board and management of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) have released a statement, saying they want to "assure the community and parade viewers that we have requested a meeting tomorrow with the Minister of Police and that we are working with the state Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, to have this incident investigated and addressed."
New South Wales police have also released a statement, saying that an investigation into the incident on the video will be conducted. "As soon as we can provide any further information or updates, we will certainly do so."