Protesters at a Melbourne pride march have hurled paint bombs and an onslaught of abuse at Victoria Police members who were participating in the beachside event.
About 100 unarmed Victoria Police officers, members of the pipe band, public servants and protective service officers marched down Fitzroy St alongside festivalgoers at the Midsumma Pride March in St Kilda on Sunday.
A group of up to 50 protesters confronted police, who were joined by children, and attempted to stop them from marching by blocking them from three sides and throwing pink paint bombs.
A protester wearing a pig mask covered in fake blood held a banner reading “no pride in prisons” and “VicPol and Serco, queers hate you”.
Victoria Police said the group were removed from the area by the public order response team.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton condemned the group’s actions, describing their behaviour as “absolutely disgusting” and something that “should never have happened”.
“We didn’t want this to be about Victoria Police. We’re one of numerous groups who were just there to participate and show inclusion, diversity support, and show what a cohesive society we are, so this is really disappointing for us,” he told the Today show on Monday morning.
“We’re there to embrace and support their community, support our employees, show that we are there to work with the LGBTQ plus community, and this happens.
“Our band members were visibly upset afterwards. I know that many of our members were … visibly upset.”
Mr Patton said the group “infiltrated” the police lines before throwing paint bombs and other items at officers.
“They encroached on our personal space. They were being abusive. One of them was actually heard to say, uh, f**king shoot them. And now I don’t think that was going to occur, but that’s the type of vitriol we’re exposed to,” he said.
Mr Patton said the confrontation was planned ahead of the festivities.
“I’ve said it was premeditated, and I say that because you don’t make up paint bombs when you’re standing in Fitzroy St on the spur of the moment,” he said.
“They’ve come there with an intent that’s pretty clear … that was pretty obvious.”
A 34-year-old man was arrested and will be charged on summons with assaulting a spectator who was attempting to help police and one of the protective service officers who sustained minor injuries to his shoulder.
The man has since been released pending further investigations.
In a statement, Victoria Police said it was “disappointed” in the group who chose to disrupt a “proud and inclusive day”.
“The protesters, who were acting not in the spirit of the event, chose to confront Victoria Police members who were unarmed,” Victoria Police said.
“Overwhelmingly, many of the people marching today for Victoria Police are proudly part of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Senator Jacqui Lambie said the protesters’ behaviour towards police was “absolutely shameful” and questioned whether police should remain without a uniform to avoid such incidents.
“I don’t know what’s happening to this country. Fair dinkum,” she told the Today show on Monday morning.
“But that is absolutely shameful in itself. If you’re going to go to stuff like that and you can’t behave yourself, then bloody well stay at home. Simple as that. Should Police just perhaps not be in uniform?”
Victoria Police said footage from the event would be reviewed to determine if any further action was required.