NSW Cops have more to answer for than Mardi Gras

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hasitha_tudugalle/8524088752/

Lifesavers at Mardi Gras, by Hasitha Tudagalle

The Mardi Gras police bashings story has taken a number of interesting turns. But it risks obscuring an older and more important story about past gay bashings and murders ignored by NSW Police.

Sydney Independent gay MP Alex Greenwich appeared on television to say that many people had contacted his office with complaints about police misbehaviour throughout the festival. It wasn’t just a matter of two incidents.

Mr Greenwich said:

“This footage is certainly distressing and I will be calling for a full investigation”

“I have also spoken with other parade goers who have described similar events and will be bring this to the Police Minister’s attention as a matter of urgency”

The police are sticking to their line that there were only two incidents, though there seem to have been more, as yet unreported by the mainstream press. UPDATE: police are now investigating a third incident.

Meanwhile the community will rally on Saturday at Surry Hills police station to protest the police behaviour. This seems a little odd, since the officer in the video came from Fairfield LAC.

It didn’t take long for the unpleasant underbelly of our own community to go on display on Facebook last night, with some posters making racist comments about the Fairfield policeman, asking if he was a Muslim or a Leb, and so forth. Others went on the attack against the boy in the video, as if he was somehow to blame for what happened to him.

Never have I been more conscious that we are far from perfect ourselves. As I posted on numerous forums last night:

It’s the police’s job to protect the public, in some cases, like this, even from themselves. To put themselves in harms way so that we are not in harms way. One small slight boy against those hulking blokes could have done them little or no harm, which they should have put up with, restrained him firmly but gently till he calmed down, identified his mates, and sent him off with them.

Easy, simple, and an appropriate level of force. Dragging him round by the neck, spearing him into the concrete, throwing him down and standing on him was manifestly excessive by several orders of magnitude. Whether he was straight , gay, bi, male, female, trans or whatever.

If some of the straight blokes telling us gays to harden up had seen a girl being tossed about like that, they wouldn’t stand for it either.

I posted the same on the NSW Police and Fairfield LAC Facebook pages.

However, there is a more disturbing story regarding the police in NSW which has been flying under the radar, and which deserves much more attention.

The number of gay men murdered in gay-hate crimes between 1985 and 2000 in NSW may be as high as 70. Hundreds were hospitalised after assaults and thousands of gay men and lesbians were attacked. How was the scale of this not known?

Have the police in NSW really changed deeply enough since then, or was their behaviour during Mardi Gras an indication that their relatively new-found embrace of diversity is little more than skin deep? The way they deal with the incidents at Mardi Gras will be a good indication, as will their willingness to openly and publicly confess their past errors, and correct them.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. And now he's been nominated for LGBTI Journalist of the Year 2017, which is great news, as he hasn't won any of these things for years! If you want to nominate him too - the more the merrier - you can do it here http://www.australianlgbtiawards.com.au/public-nominations.html "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)