Video of a man being apprehended by police during protests opposing Melbourne’s stringent lockdown has sparked debate over the appropriateness of the officers’ response.
More than 100 people took to suburban streets in Dandenong on Wednesday as tensions boiled over between police and frustrated residents calling for the city’s Stage 4 restrictions to be eased.
In the clip shared to Facebook, a man not wearing a mask is apprehended by a female police officer.
He is then grabbed around the neck by a male officer and dragged away, to the dismay of a crowd of protesters who voice their disapproval.
Several other officers jump in and they force the man to the ground.
Several officers demand the gathered crowd to step back, with one wielding a can of pepper spray in front of him, repeatedly shouting: “Back off!”
While Victoria Police told Yahoo News Australia they could not comment on the specific incident, they confirmed four men were arrested during the protest while nine fines were issued.
Victoria Police said the protest has become a recurring event, and warned anyone who plans to attend the event in the coming days will likely face punishment.
“Anyone planning to attend this protest would be blatantly breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions and putting Victorian lives at risk,” a spokesperson said.
“Be assured Victoria Police will be responding and will take appropriate action. We will have no hesitation in issuing $1,652 fines or making arrests.”
The video was shared online alongside a photo of the man detained by police, showing him bleeding from around his ear and a graze above his eye.
The local resident who uploaded the video and photo told Yahoo News Australia the man, an acquaintance, was cuffed before being released.
“They asked if he knew why they cuffed him and he said he didn’t. [It was] apparently because he didn’t comply,” he said.
He told Yahoo News Australia he will be leaving home for his daily exercise at 5pm however it is unclear if he will be attending the George Andrews Reserve where the protests have centred around in recent days.
He insisted those leaving their homes are abiding to current restrictions, which includes social distancing and wearing face masks.
Greater Dandenong Mayor Jim Mementi said it appeared police had been “heavy handed” after arrests following a gathering of people on Monday.
He said people leaving their homes at the same time wasn’t protesting but simply people exercising.
“It’s very difficult for people. They have lost their jobs, they have reduced income, they can’t see their friends and family,” he told the Star Journal.
“People are trying to make the best of the situation.”
Dandenong’s postcode has 84 active cases, which equates to an active rate of 158 infections per 100,000 residents.
Dandenong video prompts debate online
The video has been widely circulated on Facebook with more than 3,300 shares and prompted a divided response online.
Many have criticised the police for being heavy-handed in their approach.
“He was walking away, got dragged back and clearly not resisting,” one person said.
“Brutality is unacceptable,” another wrote.
One person labelled the police’s response “a disgrace”.
Yet others were angered with the behaviour of those present, who were breaching restrictions.
“Bunch of hooligans out to provoke the police with self inflated egos,” one person said.
“Maybe just obey the law?? Instead of carrying on like a bunch of raw prawns,” another said.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told 3AW it was evident a minority were “taking advantage”.
“They are anti-police, anti-authority, anti-everything and are using the situation to get up to no good,” he said.
“Nothing entitles them to protest in public. We will get more police out there and do everything we can to hold them to account.”
Premier refuses to deliver restrictions road map
On Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews said he was unable to give a timeline to Melburnians detailing how restrictions will be eased moving forward.
The state recorded its lowest daily infections since the peak of the second wave on Thursday, announcing a further 113 cases.
However there was little sign the daily death toll was falling with 24 further deaths.
“Is it challenging? Yes. It is really painful? Yes. The alternative is I think even more painful,” Mr Andrews said.
“You only get one chance to defeat this in its worst phase. That is this second wave. Making sure that we have really got it down to the lowest possible limit, so that we can be confident we can keep a lid on it, it is right down in small numbers.
“That's when a plan to open up and a plan for rebuilding and recovery will be most certain and not just the beginning of a third wave. That's what we're trying to avoid.”
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