Policing of the Trans Day of Visibility Rally March 27

Key points:

  • The rally once again saw a heavy police presence. About 50 officers, 6 horses and 8 vehicles were deployed to police a protest of about 300 people. Police kept a constant perimeter around the protestors.
  • 6 police horses followed protestors down King St at a distance of about 5 metres as cars and pedestrians were passing by, posing a significant risk of injury. Legal Observers NSW strongly recommends that police horses not be deployed at any protest event.
  • Police issued a move on order, with a threat of arrest for breach, to 4 boys aged 11-13 who were involved in an incident of heckling protestors. Legal Observers NSW expresses concern about intimidating youth policing practices and the lack of alternative engagement strategies for young people.

Police amassed near Newtown Hub as the rally began, with about 30 officers forming a perimeter around the rally. None of the officers wore face masks and several did not wear body cameras. When the march down King St began, police blocked off the right hand lane and stationed about 40 officers along the perimeter of the rally, with 6 mounted police and 6 police vehicles, including a van and a bus, following behind the back of the march.

The 6 police horses maintained a distance of approximately 5 meters behind the protestors for most of the march. The presence of police horses posed a significant risk of injury given the proximity of horses to the protestors, the constant stream of vehicles on the left hand side of King St, the presence of older protestors and protestors with a disability, and the lack of space for protestors to move out of the way if horses did close in. Legal Observers NSW strongly recommends that police horses not be deployed in any crowded or populated area at any protest event due to risk of severe injury.

Mounted police follow protestors down King St as a car passes by on the left hand side.

As the march continued down King St, an altercation occurred involving a group of boys aged 11-13, some of whom were shouting derisive comments at protestors. There were reports that somebody was pushed, but neither police nor observers had clear evidence of what had happened. Two police officers sat four of the boys involved down on the side of King St and asked for their personal details, before issuing them with a move on order away from the march. The boys were told that if they approached the protest they would be breaching a move on direction and would be taken to the police station.

Early in the march, three members of the public who regularly attend protests to harass protestors began antagonising attendees. Police asked organisers if they wanted a move on order issued to the antagonistic individuals, and the organisers gave a non-response. The three followed the march to Victoria Park, continuing to heckle protestors. Once the protest arrived in Victoria Park, a verbal confrontation occurred between the individuals and a group of protestors. One individual was escorted out of the park by police. Police took another individual aside, obtained his personal details and issued him with a move on order. The individual was questioned by two police officers, and although other police remained in the background, they did not become involved in the questioning. The individual did not have his belongings or clothing searched. This was a marked difference to the police behaviour we observed on Mardi Gras, where an individual was surrounded by a total of about 10 officers for questioning regarding the possession of a substance without a prescription. About 40 police officers remained in Victoria Park as protestors dispersed.

Legal Observers NSW notes that at this event police were cognizant of the risks antagonisers posed to protestors and took steps to remove antagonistic individuals from the area of the protest. However, we are concerned about the youth policing we witnessed. The police response consisted of diverting the children from the area of the protest and threatening them with arrest if they did not comply. This mode of engagement provides a short-term solution to the children’s behaviour but does so in a manner based on intimidation rather than addressing the underlying causes of such behaviour, which may lie in a complex range of circumstances and disadvantages. Noting the history of intimidation and physical violence in youth-police interactions, Legal Observers NSW expresses concern about the lack of alternative engagement strategies for the kind of youth behaviour witnessed at the march.

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