The Ethical Standards Department is investigating a physical assault complaint over an incident in which police stripped an Occupy Melbourne protester down to her underwear.
The incident happened in the Flagstaff Gardens this morning when police moved in to remove tents being worn by a couple of protesters.
Disturbing video of the exchange has been posted on YouTube. See above: Strong language warning
Victoria Police released a statement this evening revealing the Ethical Standards Department was investigating the incident after receiving a complaint.
”The Ethical Standards Department has subsequently received a physical assault complaint in relation to this incident and is investigating. As this investigation is ongoing we will not be commenting further.”
The footage appears to show a council worker being handed a knife by police to cut the tent from the woman – identified as Sarah, 20, who begins to struggle.
“This is not consensual,’’ she says as police work to tear the tent off her body. “Don’t take my clothes off.’’
After a minor scuffle police are filmed walking away with the tent, leaving the distressed woman semi-naked and cowering on the grass.
Police said they advised protesters that if they chose not to wear clothes under the tents, they would be given reasonable time to dress before the structures were seized.
”Three of the four protesters co-operated and evacuated their tents. The fourth, a female, refused to comply with direction,” police said.
According to Occupy Melbourne spokesperson Tal Slome, “Sarah” was just out of high school and was “extremely distressed” by the incident.
Ms Slome said Sarah had been wearing the tent as a costume and said police stripped her knowing she was wearing nothing but underwear underneath.
And she claimed there were eight police officers involved including a female officer, who had for some reason targeted Sarah among two other “tent wearers”, cutting the tent off with a knife.
Ms Slome described the incident as a “completely unnecessary form of brutality. Who decides what constitutes clothing in our society?”
Occupy Melbourne earlier released a statement this morning condemning police for their behaviour.
“This morning at 8:45am a peaceful Occupy Melbourne Protester was violently stripped of her protest costume and discarded on the ground in her bra and panties,” the statement reads.
“The individual in question was part of the Occupy Melbourne protest and was dressed in a protest costume made from a converted tent. The significance of the costume was to highlight restrictions placed on protesters staging a 24/7 protest in Flagstaff Gardens.
“The protester was surrounded by at least four Melbourne City Council officers and eight Victorian police officers.
“Her movement was restricted by the formation of officers surrounding her and she was subsequently restrained as officers proceeded with aggressively removing her costume.
“At each stage she declared that she did not consent or feel comfortable with the actions of the council and police officers, stating that this was a sexual assault.’’
“Her requests and declarations were ignored as officers continued to rip and jostle her costume and person. A knife was requested and used by MCC Officers as the Protest Costume was cut from her body.
“The remaining severed costume was violently torn from her body while the protester herself was discarded, semi-naked and crying on the ground as Vic police and MCC officers walked away with the costume.”
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