Policing of the Webb Dock protest – Preliminary Legal Observer Statement of Concern
22 January 2024
A team of trained, independent legal observers was present during the Victoria Police (VicPol) operation at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne from 4.30 pm until 8.00 pm on Monday 22 January 2024. Legal Observer Teams had been monitoring the policing of the pro-Palestinian community picket event from 4:30 pm Friday 19 January over several shifts.
Preliminary concerns include the following:
1. At approx 5.25pm Monday a person in a wheelchair was grabbed and dragged out of their chair by police. After having been jostled some distance away from the chair, police aggressively yelled at them to get up off the ground.
2. Multiple uses of OC (Pepper) spray against people who were not posing any direct threat to police, in ways to move people from an area. On Saturday morning (20.01.24), a person lying face down on the ground was sprayed point blank at both sides of their face by a police officer leaning over them. OC spray was also used multiple times during Monday evening (22.01.24) in ways that appeared outside of guidelines. Use of OC spray outside of VicPol guidelines is unlawful and may constitute assault.
3. Severe mistreatment and use of force against medics and people being treated for the effects of OC spray. On Monday evening (22.01.24) several areas established by medic teams to treat injured people were charged and cleared by police without warning. On multiple occasions, police pushed and used force against medics while they were treating people and against people who were clearly affected by OC spray. Police refused to hand over medical equipment caught behind rapidly moving police lines. At least one medic was arrested.
4. Police crowd control maneuvers designed to clear the area on Monday evening appeared unplanned, chaotic, and dangerous, escalating conflicts and causing immense anger, confusion, and distress. At one point, a line of police horses actively pushed people towards the M1 freeway. At other times people were being charged by running police, given rapid and conflicting directions, and pushed into moving vehicles or through bushes or gardens. Police were seen aggressively grabbing, pushing, and yelling at people trying to move away or communicate their concerns with police.
Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) has made several referrals to law firms. A more detailed Statement of Concern will be released to senior Victoria Police Command, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), and other bodies in 24-48 hours.
CALL FOR FOOTAGE
Anyone with footage of police use of force incidents from Webb Dock can submit it to this link below and email MALS at [email protected]
LEGAL SUPPORT INFORMATION
If you are affected by OC spray or assaulted by police at this protest event please read this.