Australia Today

'Police Simply Don't Belong at Pride': Cops Filmed Punching, Dragging Midsumma Protestors

"We deserve to have a space at pride and the police being there makes it unsafe and inaccessible."
midsumma pride march police violence queer
Midsumma Pride March attendees experienced police violence. Photo: BOX4 supplied.

Victoria Police officers have walked in Melbourne’s annual Midsumma Pride March for the last two decades and every year people protest their presence. But attendees say this year was different. 

“Just last year the Civil Resistance Youth Movement (CRYM), which is the group that organised this year's demonstration, they did the same thing,” Hiero Badge, an organiser of the No Police at Pride movement, told VICE. 


“They turned up and they protested the participation of police which did not end violently at all. And I'm sure that most people probably didn't even hear about it because, as always, it was a peaceful non-violent demonstration.”

But at this year’s march on Sunday, when a group of fewer than 50 people protested the police presence by walking in front of the contingent of about 100 officers, waving signs, chanting “no cops at pride” and “cops kill queers”, they were met with a quick and aggressive response. 

“We didn’t anticipate the police to escalate the way that they did because people have been disrupting the march for many, many years and it hasn’t escalated super far. Last year we interrupted the march and it was pretty much fine, it was relatively peaceful,”  Rue, a representative for Civil Resistance Youth Movement (CRYM), who organised the counter-protest, told VICE. 

This year, amid numerous other protests over a number of local and global issues, the Public Order Response Team was also in attendance. Rue said despite those officers being trained in deescalation techniques, they were the ones who started to escalate the situation, shoving people and telling them to move. 


Footage posted online shows officers pushing, shoving and dragging protestors to get them to move along. At one point, an officer can be seen holding one person’s throat while pushing them backwards. Another officer can be seen repeatedly punching and attempting to punch one protestor in the head. 

Rue said the people who experienced the majority of the violence were people of colour, transfeminine people, and those carrying microphones or wearing Palestinian keffiyehs.

At a press conference after the march, Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said: “Police were trying to push them away and, unfortunately, there will be footage that shows that occurring and it looks confrontational and that shouldn’t be the case.”

He labelled the actions of the protesters as “abhorrent” and called the group “an ugly rabble”.

“Their conduct, I have nothing but contempt for it,” Patton said.

“Someone was in a pig’s head. This was a next-level elevation. Their intent was clear.”

Victoria’s Police Minister Anthony Carbines said the state government supported Patton’s comments and called the protestors “thugs” who “attacked” police.

“The government condemns the behaviour of a small minority of people who chose to attack police,” he told reporters on Monday.

“You don’t get to bring your views to the table and discuss them or promote them when you’re acting like a thug.”


The Midsumma festival’s CEO, Karen Bryant, told reporters the fault was two-sided and said “we are highly disappointed by the disruption of the march and the escalation of events from both sides”.

But members of the queer and trans community in attendance said this simply wouldn’t happen if police weren’t welcomed at pride events. 

“Obviously, there is no love lost between queer people and police at the global, national and state level,” Badge said.

Australia has a dark history of police brutality against the queer and trans community and police across the country have had to reckon with, and even apologise for, their biased conduct and violence towards the community. From Sydney’s Gay Hate Murders in the 80s to the 1994 police raid on Melbourne’s Tasty nightclub where Victoria Police detained and strip-searched 463 patrons.

More recently, in March 2023, Victoria Police were filmed protecting a group of neo-Nazis, who gathered on Parliament steps in support of anti-trans speaker Kellie Jay Keen-Minshull.


“When Victoria Police started marching [in pride] roughly 20 years ago, this was viewed by an older generation as a sign of progress,” Badge said. “It was viewed as a step in the right direction and I think, given how bad things were in the 80s and 90s and even in the early noughties, I think we can all appreciate why that older generation of queer people might have viewed it in that way.”

“But what has become apparent over the last 20 years is that this was only ever a lip service. This was only ever PR because the police haven't changed, as we saw on the weekend, this is exactly what the police have always done.”

Rue said CRYM members were there in protest because “police simply don’t belong at pride”. 

“They were the people who brutalised protestors at the first pride event in this country in 1978. Police don’t protect us from hate crimes. Police continually brutalise trans people, brutalise people of colour and Indigenous people and [we] deserve to have a space at pride and the police being there makes it unsafe, inaccessible and can be retraumatising for people,” they said.

Rue also accused Midsumma, and the organisations and companies who join the annual event, of pinkwashing or rainbowwashing. 

“If you only support queer and trans people when it’s convenient and when it makes you look good, then you don’t deserve to profit from our lives and our identities. 


“My queerness is not for sale and these companies continue to pinkwash themselves. I feel pride when I’m with my community, protesting against a system that is fucking all of us – that is what queerness is to me.”

Badge said it was disappointing, but not surprising, to see the government support Victoria Police, but that at least the incident was visible and being talked about.

“In terms of how that makes me feel as a community member, obviously, this is horrible. This is exactly what we've been talking about all these years and people, I guess, are finally seeing it. 

“I'm not surprised at all. We have been running our campaign now for a couple of years and a lot of us were involved in anti-police action prior to that so we've all known that this is being the reality of the situation for quite some time and it's in a way I think it's good that people are finally waking up to this.”

Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.

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