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(Image: AAP/David Crosling)

Attempts by protesters to blockade the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne have been met by a… let’s call it a heavy-handed police response.

Videos of cops shoving, hitting and unleashing pepper spray have gone viral, even as Victoria Police repeatedly tried to shift the blame onto the protesters themselves.

On Tuesday, footage emerged of an officer hitting a woman in the face with a baton while she had her hands raised in submission.

Acting Commander Tim Tully said he was unaware of the use of batons. Victoria Police later said they were in, fact, aware, and would be reviewing the footage.

In another video, an officer appears to punch a young woman in the head.

According to police, this was not a punch but a “palm strike”, which is a “commonly applied clearance move in dynamic public order scenarios”. 

As the protests continued, journalists found themselves caught in the crossfire. Channel 7 reporter Paul Dowsley was shoved by police. Ailish Hallinan, an editor of the University of Melbourne student magazine Farrago, got pepper sprayed.

Victoria Police’s media team said it was “unfortunate that members of the public, including journalists, are not following instructions”. According to Dowsley, he was shoved while attempting to follow directions.

Senior Constable Travis Gray (responsible for the “palm strike”) was also caught on camera making the “OK” hand gesture, which is becoming increasingly appropriated as a white supremacist symbol. Victoria Police claimed there were no “white power” motivations behind it.

Before long, social media archeologists tracked down the officer’s Facebook page, deleted after the hand gesture image did the rounds, and found it was full of alt-right memes. Police finally expressed their “extreme disappointment” at the officer’s social media material, but maintained the gesture was innocent, despite protesters saying otherwise.

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Meanwhile, another officer was reprimanded after being photographed with “EAD [eat a dick] Hippy” written on his body camera. Victoria Police said the officer’s behaviour “detracts from what was otherwise a professionally conducted operation”.

Peter Fray

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