Police brutality alleged at Sydney Gay Mardi Gras

Outcry over video showing man being thrown to the ground during arrest

Sydney police have launched an internal investigation into the treatment of a young man at the city's famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras after onlookers captured footage of him being violently thrown to the ground.
 
The video, taken on Saturday night, shows Jamie Jackson, 18, being forced down heavily by a police officer who then presses his foot down on Jackson's back. It shows Jackson, who appears to have previously sustained a head injury, sobbing on the pavement.
 
A woman heard on the amateur video describes what happened before the footage began: "This [officer] here grabbed his throat and smashed his skull on the pavement." Another woman says: "They just slammed his head. There's blood all over the ground."
 
It's not clear from the footage what prompted Jackson's arrest but police will allege in court that he used offensive language, assaulted a police officer and resisted arrest. The video does not appear to show him resisting arrest.
 
Jackson's father told News Limited media that he was "shaken" by the footage which showed his son being "thrown around like a rag doll". "I had no idea about it until this morning when I got a text at 7am saying 'Oh my god, Jamie is on TV," he said. "He's not a big boy … and seeing him being thrown around like a rag doll and [police] stepping on him too … I'm still a bit shaken up by it."
 
"Whatever happened before [the footage started] he shouldn't have been thrown like that, it's just dangerous."
 
The video prompted calls on social media for an independent investigation into the conduct of police at the Mardi Gras event, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators and participants each year.
 
The New South Wales assistant police commissioner, Mark Murdoch, said the video only captured a few minutes and more would be revealed by an internal investigation. "What we have see is but one small part of what is clearly a much larger incident," he said.
 
"This is a matter that the New South Wales police is taking very seriously. We are not a third world organisation. We are in the biz of policing by consent with the support of that [gay and lesbian] community."
 
The co-chair of the Mardi Gras, Peter Urmson, said the footage was "disgusting" and welcomed the investigation. "Mardi Gras was born out of police brutality 35 years ago and it's ironic that that night was celebration how far we've come as a community working together with other parts of the community. I now kind of wonder, how far have we really come?" he said.

"Certainly the gay and lesbian community is up in arms about this."
 
Police said a second incident happened an hour and a half after the first in which they allege a man assaulted police. He was also charged.

This year's Mardi Gras marked 35 years since the event's inception, when a group of 2,000 protesters clashed with police. The parade is now the centrepiece of one of the largest gay and lesbian festivals in the world as well as one of the biggest income generating events for the state of New South Wales.

Contributor

Alison Rourke in Sydney

The GuardianTramp

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