Alt-right attention seeker Lauren Southern had mixed results lobbing hollow bombs of content-free provocation on the streets of Melbourne over the weekend. Asking people whether she should be executed was greeted with indifference or incomprehension. But her talk with fellow alt-right podcaster Stefan Molyneux attracted 100 protesters who clashed with police and were met with pepper spray.
It ended up being a costly stunt for the Canadian. She was reportedly hit with a bill from Victoria Police to compensate them for having to augment her private security detail — keeping her safe from the people she’d gone out of her way to antagonise. Southern has been asked to stump up $67, 000. But will she?
Can the cops do this?
The Victoria Police (Fees and Charges) Regulations gives the police very broad powers the right to charge any organiser of a commercial event for the use of police resources.
Private events are generally responsible for organising their own security. Indeed, it’s alleged by some that Southern has been engaging local neo-Nazis for just that purpose. Crikey understands if Victoria Police believe any given event might lead to violence, they will meet with the event organisers and discuss what policing is needed and what it will cost the organisers.
“Victoria Police has the right to charge any event organiser for the use of police resources,” Senior Sergeant Anthoula Moutis told Crikey. “Victoria Police does not disclose the cost of engaging our services, or the private discussions held as part of the arrangements.”
Has this happened before?
When he visited last year, sparkly bully Milo Yiannopoulos faced a similar situation. Around 300 riot police were called to separate protesters and right-wing supporters outside Yiannopoulos’ event in Melbourne. The Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said he owes Victoria Police $50,000 to cover those costs.
“They’ll certainly be getting a bill,” Neville said at the time. “There were a lot of resources put in and I’ve had a lot of interesting tweets sent to me saying ‘what a waste of police resources’ but unfortunately in that situation, we’ve got two groups who pretty much set out to cause the harm that they did… try and cause violence and try and get on the TV so police are there to try and protect the general public.”
Neville said it was common practice for organisers of large-scale or controversial events to be billed if large numbers of police resources were required.
The big question then becomes, can the bill be enforced? Yiannopoulos — or more accurately, the tour organisers — just plain refused to pay.
Tour promoter and Penthouse publisher Damien Costas said:
The people that attended, 3000 of our people, we have three hours worth of footage where you actually see them lining up very peacefully. The people causing all the trouble and being violent were people not attending the event. If you want to take it further, sue me and I will call every single one of those 3000 people as witnesses.
Victorian Police would not comment on what further steps were available to them should Southern refuse to pay.
Do you know of other events where police have sent a bill to organisers or what negotiations are involved? Write to [email protected] and let us know.