A LEGAL group has called for an inquiry into the police handling of anti-Roe 8 protests after documenting what they claim are serious cases of misconduct and human rights abuses.
Beeliar Legal Support boasted 23 lawyers who worked pro bono during the campaign, and included a group of 12 lawyers, advocates and trained observers who documented issues on the front lines.
They’re currently working on a detailed report to be released next week which will claim police repeatedly breached protestor’s rights by targeting them with horses and dogs, and using handcuffs and force in violation of their procedure manuals.
While they were working on the report, member Nicola Paris said she wanted to get a broader sense of how protestors were feeling about the police presence and put out feelers on social media. After being inundated with responses she put together a survey.
“The findings are genuinely shocking,” Ms Paris told the Herald, saying they pointed to a huge loss of trust in police.
More than 200 people responded to the survey, including 62 who had been arrested.
Almost 90 per cent reported seeing horses being ridden in a way that could injure someone, while 70 per cent reported seeing police being verbally and physically aggressive.
Nearly half those arrested say they were treated roughly, though mostly courteously, while three quarters believed they witnessed police misconduct.
Ms Paris said the group was particularly disturbed by the effect the police tactics had on children, with a number of minors reportedly threatened with tasering.
Parents who responded to the survey (78) believed their children’s trust in police had almost completely evaporated.
“He hates them. He has no respect for them and no trust in them. He’s only a child,” one parent responded.
“Every time we see police now my child requires me to pick them up as he is so scared,” wrote another.
Ms Paris said the survey results will be sent to Labor MPs Simone McGurk and Peter Tinley.
“We hope they will be supporting our call for a thorough investigation into policing of the Beeliar protests,” she said. “The survey indicates a disturbing loss of trust that has been experienced by the community, and a deep level of concern regarding the violence that was witnessed and experienced.”
BLS member and Fremantle resident Christine Duckham spent a lot of time on the front lines.
“I witnessed the fear and shock that ordinary local residents showed when police officers carrying out their duties exercised their powers to control a very well-behaved group of citizens,” Ms Duckham said.
“The use of force escalated as the numbers of people who wished to protect the environment grew.”
Ms Paris said there was evidence the police presence was political, such as targeting leaders to ensure they ended up on bail and unable to visit the site.
by STEVE GRANT