Several men have come forward to complain of excessive force and dishonest practises by NSW Police during Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations on Saturday.
Former Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) co-convenor Bryn Hutchinson alleges he was assaulted by police on Oxford St after the parade on Saturday night after attempting to cross the road with some friends and being verbally warned off by an officer.
“When I moved to cross the road anyway I was grabbed from behind by several officers and thrown down on my back. They flipped me over and pushed my face into the road,” he said.
Hutchinson claims that he was then kicked several times by police officers while he was on the ground.
“They put their weight on me and made it difficult to breathe. When I told them I couldn’t breathe properly one of the officers said ‘if you can talk, you can breathe,’” he said.
He was then taken to Surry Hills police station where he said he learned that the officers in question had been drafted in from Parramatta for the parade.
On the way he was charged with assaulting police while in the back of a paddy wagon.
Hutchinson claims the incident left him with extensive bruising and temporary nerve damage in both thumbs due to the tightness of the handcuffs used to arrest him.
“When the police were cuffing me I screamed out that the cuffs were too tight – they were, but I also wanted witnesses to see what was happening,” he said.
Hutchinson said he was “shocked” by the incident and intended to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman.
“I’ve had a good working relationship with police before – I’ve gone to local area commands across Sydney to work with gay and lesbian liaison officers for CAAH and we’ve always worked well together. I had contacts and people who could help me, but if that had happened to some young person they would have been traumatised,” he said.
“If police officers are willing to go around kicking people in front of other officers, it seems there’s some structural and cultural issues within some areas of the police.”
In a brief statement on the incident police said that “a 32-year-old man was arrested at the intersection of Oxford and Crown Streets” and “issued with a Field Court Attendance Notice for Assaulting Police”.
Surry Hills Police Commander Anthony Crandell told the Star Observer that police were reviewing CCTV footage of Saturday night.
“I can’t comment too much as the matter concerns the courts. I’m happy to review any information that comes to me and conduct a fair and thorough investigation. The LGBTI community is a big part of Surry Hills Police,” Crandell said.
Hutchinson is due to appear at Central Local Court in the city on April 5.
Andrew*, another 32-year old Sydney gay man whose name has been changed, alleges he was assaulted by plain clothes police officers outside the Mardigrasland afterparty at the Hordern Pavilion at around 11pm on Saturday night.
Speaking to the Star Observer on condition of anonymity, Andrew alleges that he was “lunged at” by four or five plain clothes officers while eating a stick of chewing gum, slammed against a wall and choked around the neck for almost a minute while being ordered to ‘spit it out’ before being let go and handcuffed.
“They choked me to the point where I was only semi-conscious. I just couldn’t breathe, it was like I was drowning,” he said.
Andrew alleges that he was strip-searched in a police van and the officers suggested taking him to hospital to have his stomach pumped. When his interrogators realised he had not taken any drugs, they then accused Andrew of assaulting police.
“They kept telling me that assault of an officer was a much worse offence, and how I should have just admitted to possession and taking drugs. I think they were trying to intimidate me into giving a drug confession.”
Andrew claims the officers then attempted to infer that he was violent and unstable for the benefit of the interview’s tape recording.
“One of them kept rubbing his chin like I’d hit him, and they kept asking me if I was calm even though I had been calm and cooperative the entire time I was being interrogated.”
While Andrew was not formally charged, officers said he would receive a court summons in the mail.
The incident left Andrew with numerous cuts and bruises on his shoulders, arms, chest and neck, forcing him to seek medical attention at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital the next day.
Andrew said he found the incident “traumatising” and that he intends to pursue legal action against Surry Hills Police.
Police media refused to comment on the incident as Andrew wished to remain anonymous.
Both men are seeking witnesses, particularly anyone who may have captured what happened on camera or film.