Victoria Police taking part in the Midsumma Pride March in St Kilda on Sunday were pelted with paint and harassed by up to 50 protesters.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, who participated in the march alongside around 100 police members, slammed the “abhorrent” behaviour and defended the actions of his officers seen on video clashing with the protesters.
Members of the protest group could be seen holding a banner that read “No Pride in Prisons, VicPol + Serco, Queers Hate You” as they attempted to physically block the police route.
Footage showed tensions boil over as several officers pushed and shoved protesters standing in their way. One person filming could be heard shouting at police, “F**k you, you don’t deserve to be here.”
Speaking to ABC News, Mr Patton said he had “nothing but contempt” for the “ugly rabble” and said there had been a premeditated decision to throw paint at police taking part in the march.
“We were subjected as we went along to threats, calling us killers,” he said.
“There was paint thrown at police, there were paint bombs thrown at police, which landed on police officers. You don’t make those when you’re standing in the street at the time. You come premeditated when you do that.”
He said scuffles occurred as police tried to push back protesters who had infiltrated police lines.
“Police were trying to push them away, an unfortunately there’ll be footage that shows that occurring,” he said. “And it looks very confrontational. And that shouldn’t be the case.”
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said one protester had been arrested for allegedly assaulting a spectator.
“She has been released pending further investigation,” she said. “Victoria Police will review any footage of the incident to determine if further police action is required.”
Police members marching included sworn officers, the Pipe Band, public servants and Protective Services Officers.
“Today was the 22nd year our members have proudly taken part in the march in uniform, joining the community in celebrating inclusion, culture, respect, and pride,” the spokeswoman said.
“There were also a number of children marching alongside their parents as part of the Victoria Police contingent. Shortly after Victoria Police began their march, they were confronted by up to 50 protesters, about 1.50pm. The protesters surrounded the Victoria Police contingent on three sides, attempting to stop members from marching. They also threw a number of items at members.”
As protesters continued to surround the marchers, the Public Order Response Team “assisted in physically removing protesters from the area”.
“Victoria Police is disappointed that there was a small group of people intent on disrupting what is a proud and inclusive day,” the spokeswoman said.
“The protesters, who were acting not in the spirit of the event, chose to confront Victoria Police members who were unarmed. Overwhelmingly many of the people marching today for Victoria Police are proudly part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Today should be a celebration and not one of hate, we are proud of our members who were able to complete the march in a hostile environment.”
Protester Nevo Zisin told ABC News police tore banners, pushed protesters and threw punches.
“It was quite a surprising escalation,” said Zisin, who uses they/them pronouns.
Zisin insisted there was “nothing violent that was planned at all”.
“Our intention was literally just to walk in front of them, so that it would be raised awareness hat we rejected police in Midsumma,” Zisin said.
“But I think many, many people who are involved in the disruption today fundamentally reject the corporatisation of pride. You know, pride started as a protest. It was started by mostly trans women of colour, who are at the frontline who have been fighting for their rights over and over again.”
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