Police accused of violence, heavy-handedness after clashing with protesters outside mining conference

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Capsicum spray, batons and horse-mounted police were deployed against protesters outside an international mining conference in Melbourne yesterday.

Police were accused of violence against protesters after clashing outside the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), with multiple sources of footage emerging of officers hitting protesters with batons and deploying horse mounted police into a blockade.

IMARC brings together more than 7,000 decision-makers in global mining, including mining leaders, policymakers, investors, commodity buyers, technical experts, innovators and educators from over 100 countries, according to the event organiser.

Multiple sources reported protesters had vowed to be “as disruptive as possible” during the day, and chanted “land rights not mining rights” and “blood on your hands” outside the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, on their second day of action at IMARC, which continued Wednesday.

The Age reported a woman and three police officers were injured and taken to hospital for treatment. While officers reportedly arrested more than 40 protesters, including two who were charged with animal cruelty offences after allegedly striking a police horse.

Police told the news outlet protesters were blocking the disabled and wheelchair access into the building and were allegedly arrested after they refused to move.

Police also deployed capsicum spray on the crowd “indiscriminately”.

“Police horses were ridden into the crowd in what looked like an attempt by police to intimidate and divide the protesters,” Former Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, who took part in the protest, told The Age.

“Police have failed to respect the public’s right to peacefully protest. I have witnessed a number of examples of police violence.

“None of the actions by protesters warranted these attacks. Overall the police action was an attack on a peaceful protest,” she told the outlet.

One protester, believed to be 23-year-old Camila Serra, was taken to hospital after being trampled by a horse, multiple sources said.

Her leg was wrapped in a splint while paramedics placed her in a neck brace, at the scene.

A male protester was also treated at the scene for a minor cut to his head, multiple sources reported.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman told The Age the police operation is ongoing but stated that any action taken by officers on Tuesday morning “has been in response to the protesters’ activity and in accordance with training”.

Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters while protesting was a democratic right, violence is not acceptable.

“That’s a difficult balance sometimes, but I’m confident Victoria Police can find that balance,” he said.

IMARC is currently underway at Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre between 28–31 October.

Featured image: @samcossar/Twitter