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Video: Police Brutality at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

A video shot at the iconic Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on March 2, 2013 involving participant Jamie Jackson has sparked claims of police brutality. There were more than 1.6 million views in the first week of this version, taken by a press photographer for the parade, which shows Jamie being thrown down on the concrete and kicked by a police officer.

The event celebrates LGBTQI: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex.

Each year tens of thousands take part in the parade and festivities and spectators number in the hundred of thousands.

Sydney's gay and lesbian community celebrate Mardi Gras 2013

Sydney's gay and lesbian community celebrate Mardi Gras 2013
Photo by Andrew Hill, copyright © Demotix (2 March 2013)

Socialist network Solidarity questioned how far the campaign against homophobia has come:

Police and some media are using a new video showing Jamie’s altercations with police beforehand to justify the violence they later used. But nothing justifies throwing a small man to the ground so hard and cracking his head against the pavement. Nor does the new footage explain why on earth police had detained Jamie in the first place. Allegedly he swore at police, an offence so widely regarded as ridiculous it is often thrown out of court. The offences he has been charged with only occurred after he was apprehended.

Kate was typical of the initial twitter reactions and posted the video on her tweet:

‏@kateausburn: What the hell is this @nswpolice? A cop assaulting a young man at Mardi Gras, + telling ppl not to film? Disgraceful.

ABC Radio National journalist and key member of the Oz twitterverse, Mark Colvin, observed:

@Colvinius: Interesting how social media and smartphone video are putting police on the back foot

In fact the legal profession was also trying to use the power of social media. Chris Murphy, the lawyer for the arrested man, did some crowd sourcing of his own:

‏@chrismurphys: My firm now acts for Jamie Jackson.If you're a witness or have info pls email help@murphyslawyers.com #MardiGras

Two events were quickly organised in response to the video. One was a demonstration on Thursday, March 7 that attracted hundreds of protesters. The other was a community forum organized through twitter by a local parliamentarian Alex Greenwich MP:

‏@AlexGreenwich: Did you experience issues with police at Mardi Gras? Please join my community & Police forum next Thursday http://www.eventbrite.com/event/56269162…#nswpol

There has also been support for the police with allegations that Jamie Jackson was resisting arrest. There is more video in this news report.

Nathan Lee’s blog take has detailed comment, which concludes:

Anyhow, hopefully this can all get left to the investigation now and the trial by social media can put its outrage back in the box for a bit.

Leanne Michele was also supportive of police.

‏@cutiepie33346: I had an amazing time at Mardi gras its a pity that is tarnished by an incident I have nothing but praise for nsw police they were great

The Sydney mardi gras began in 1978 with confrontations with police. As the official website recounts:

The first march took place on Saturday 24th June 1978 at 10pm and it was met with unexpected police violence.

It is a safe bet that the police contingent marching in the parade were glad not to get caught up in the trouble.

Sydney Mardi Gras police contingent 2013

Sydney Mardi Gras police contingent 2013
Image courtesy: Zsoolt – flickr, NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

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