Man Who ‘Punched Horse’ at Anti-Lockdown Protest Faces Animal Cruelty Charge

While recovering the horse received carrots, licorice and chocolate.
July 29, 2021, 8:58am
Sydney horse protest
A protester (centre L) tries to push away a police horse in Sydney on July 24, 2021, as thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the city's month-long stay-at-home orders. PHOTO: Steven SAPHORE / AFP

A man accused of punching a police horse at an anti-lockdown protest in Australia is facing animal cruelty among other charges days after the chaotic weekend demonstration.

Australian police said the horse, named Tobruk, is doing just fine after the “awful” incident in Sydney on Saturday.

Police have since arrested dozens of people and issued notices to even more over their participation in the unauthorized rally, where thousands denounced the government’s strict lockdown measures meant to stop a surge in coronavirus cases.

Some of the protesters who joined the demonstration did not wear masks, stoking fears of an outbreak as Australia attempts to manage the more infectious Delta variant despite a halting vaccination rollout.

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A protester (centre L) tries to push away a police horse in Sydney on July 24, 2021, as thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the city's month-long stay-at-home orders. PHOTO: Steven SAPHORE / AFP ​

Photos taken during the protest in Sydney show a man wearing a yellow shirt with the text “free speech” on it grabbing the horse by the mouth and, in another frame, making contact with his left fist.

The clash sparked outrage and concern for the animal’s welfare, with one article calling it “the photo that shocked the nation.”

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Two people were charged with animal cruelty in connection with the demonstration. Reports identified the suspect in the viral photos as Kristian Pulkownik. 

He faced additional charges including unlawful assembly but reportedly refused to take a COVID test and had to be isolated to protect other inmates. Lawyers were quoted as saying that access to Pulkownik was severely restricted since he had to undergo a 14-day isolation period. 

According to authorities, Tobruk was not hurt.

“Police Horse Tobruk is safe and uninjured,” a New South Wales police spokesperson told VICE World News, adding that they are grateful to the community for their concern.

Residents thanked Tobruk by spoiling him with treats of carrots, licorice, chocolate and flower bouquets. 

Police Minister David Elliott said a team of detectives are going after some 3,500 “very selfish boofheads” who participated in the rally. Detectives are using CCTV footage to identify those who participated.

“I’m hoping we issue 3,500 infringement notices, I’m hoping we have people before the courts,” Elliott was quoted as saying

“If you don’t want to be in lockdown, obey the rules,” he added, urging those who protested to immediately get tested for the coronavirus. 

Australia has only fully vaccinated an estimated 13.6 percent of its total population, according to Our World in Data, one of the lowest in the developed world. 

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