Victoria Police are investigating an incident in which two members of the media, including an Age photographer, were pepper-sprayed and another was knocked over by police during anti-lockdown protests on Saturday.
Photographer Luis Ascui was sprayed directly in the eyes while photographing the rally on Saturday afternoon despite identifying himself as a media representative.
Around 700 demonstrators had marched from Bridge Road in Richmond to a gorge on Barkers Road in Hawthorn on Saturday as part of the rally. But few protesters were left in the area when a contingent of police moved through and members of the media were accosted.
Footage from the incident shows a police officer rushing and knocking into a photographer who was filming the incident as he repeatedly yelled “media”.
But not everyone was on the journalist’s side.
‘If you feel danger, then stay home simple as that. Our freedom of choice is too important to let anyone talk us out of it,’ one social media observer wrote.
‘You are putting your own freedom at risk by blindly doing what other people tell you to do.’
A different police officer was seen in vision spraying Mr Ascui while he tried to move backwards. A female protester was sprayed in the face as she lay on the ground and another member of the media was also targeted with the foam.
“Some protesters were still marching, and the police started running for the people, so I was photographing that,” Ascui said.
Demonstrators were slammed by most Victorians for breaking the city’s sixth lockdown, and Victorian Police commander Mark Galliott said the protest was just ‘angry, aggressive young males there to fight the police’.
“Most of the protesters rushed off, then one of the police turned towards me and started spraying me right in the face … directly into my eyes.”
Ascui was carrying three cameras, wearing media accreditation around his neck and had identified himself to police before he was sprayed. Nearby, a cameraman was knocked to the ground by officers and left bleeding from his arm.
Ascui said that this was not the first incident of this kind he’d faced in his career, but “everyone should have the right to go to work and feel safe”.
The head of Victoria’s Police Association has sensationally demanded his officers not be questioned for their tactics the riot.
Wayne Gatt implied protesters seen being roughly tackled, bashed with batons, and pepper sprayed while on the ground deserved it just for showing up.
He lashed out that those who wanted to have ‘needless debates’ about whether police actions in those cases were ‘proportionate’.
Mr Gatt even pushed to shut down discussion of ‘issues of what’s right and what’s wrong’ arising from the protests.
‘We need to stop nancy-pansying around these people, and we need to stop this needless debate about the proportionality, issues of what’s right and what’s wrong,’ he told reporters on Sunday.
‘They came into that demonstration with the intent to hurt our members, and they succeeded against 10 of them,’ he said.
‘I’m not coping looking at the 0.01 per cent of actions and looking at our members who were confronted with such overwhelming violence.’
Mr Gatt implied non-violent protesters caught in the crossfire between the angry mob and police deserved to be injured because they broke lockdown to participate.
‘Those actions wouldn’t have occurred if those people didn’t attend an unlawful protest, no one had to be there,’ he said.
In case you’re wondering, yes, this piece was slapped together merely by cutting, pasting and mixing up two contrasting media pieces. The first was a report from the Age on its reporter who was pepper sprayed by police. The second was the Daily Mail report on the elderly lady who got pepper sprayed by police, shoved to the ground and pepper sprayed again.
It’s amazing that the whole article by the Age was about the Lying Press journalist and his feelings, yet they literally showed a picture of the elderly lady crumpled on the ground and they just skimmed over the fact that she was assaulted.
As such I exposed the different framing of issues by the media depending on whom is being victimised by the State. But you already knew that. I’m going to submit it for my First Year Art Class at Latrobe Uni. Reckon I’ll get a B.