Onefour Rap Grou
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Why Were So Many Cops at a ONEFOUR Movie Premiere in Sydney?

You already know what they're gonna say.
Adele Luamanuvae
Sydney, AU

Inside a theatre at the ICC Sydney, a crowd erupted in a standing ovation as the credits rolled for the premiere of Gabriel Gasparinatos’ directorial debut ONEFOUR: Against All Odds – a documentary that follows the journey of Mount Druitt drill group, ONEFOUR.

Outside of the theatre, members of the NSW Police Force, a controversial and prime focus of the documentary, were stationed outside the premiere to patrol it. And, in many ways, police have been part of the ONEFOUR story for years.


ONEFOUR first started gaining police attention after police linked a string of brawls and public altercations to the group from as early as 2019. Their brash and uncompromising lyricism and staunch attitude, matched with their distinguishable accents but atypically “Australian” look, has garnered attention from all over the globe. But with that attention came a microscope.

Their song “The Message” gained millions of views on Youtube over a span of a few days in 2019, and soon became a means to be criminalised, as the police cited lyrical content where the group presumably admitted to murder and violence. Since then, ONEFOUR has become a target of extreme force by the NSW Police, pressuring venues both in NSW and nation-wide to not allow the group to perform live concerts.

And while the audience at SXSW on Monday evening may have been exhilarated by the excitement of watching an enthralling story about the rap group’s ongoing struggle with police, all of it was soon drowned out by the sad truth: no matter how much attention the group gets – and no matter how much their story spreads – the police are, quite forcibly, a part of their story.

The film premiere, as part of the first inaugural SXSW Sydney, was bound to be a room-filler.

For an hour and a half, attendees were face-to-face with the reality ONEFOUR had succumbed to over the past four years. From show shutdowns, to national tour cancellations, to raids of their family homes, to being denied access into another country. The film outlined a necessary discourse around freedom of expression, music as storytelling and who is allowed to tell that story in Australia.


And telling the story of ONEFOUR is not only complicated, but confronting. The police presence at the film premiere was almost predictable.

The group is a target of Strike Force Raptor Squad, a division designed to tackle gang activity. According to the ABC in 2019, Sergeant Trueman, an officer with the Strike Force Raptor Squad, compared the group to a bikie gang.

“If the Comancheros started singing a song and trying to call out and provoke the Hells Angels, and they wanted a concert, the public would expect us to shut that down,” he reportedly said.

Former Detective Deb Wallace, who appears in the documentary, provides complete justification for the police's extensive efforts to censor ONEFOUR, going as far as approaching music streaming platforms to take down their music.

These are just a handful of the ways Against All Odds shows the measures taken by police to hinder any kind of gain the group could have from their music.

Gabriel Gasparinatos, the documentary’s director, mentioned prior to the screening that external pressures were trying to impede on the documentary from even showing as part of the SXSW festival.

Despite the event already being heavily monitored by venue security, police were kitted up and appeared throughout the inside and outskirts of the ICC. An unlabelled patrol car was also seen doing rounds of the surrounding area – an already unusual procedure to follow for a quiet Monday night in Sydney’s CBD. It’s unlikely these measures would also be rolled out for panels hosting industry professionals like Slack co-founder Cal Henderson and actress Naomi Watts.


A spokesperson for the NSW Police told VICE that the presence of police at the premiere was part of a high-visibility operation across the entirety of the SXSW festival, ensuring the safety and wellness of attendees as they would at all other large scale festivals.

In a Q&A that followed the premiere, ONEFOUR member Spenny mentioned that police pressure has almost become routine to them.

“It's quite normal for us to go through all of the police pressure, and everything that was going on. For us, we just got used to it. So I wasn't surprised," he said.

ONEFOUR’s manager, Ricky Simandjuntak, followed Spenny’s sentiment by noting that it is a failure of the system when a young kid is numb to the pressure of police.

"It's a sad day when young kids are used to that sort of thing,” he said.

“This documentary helps to show things that maybe you don't see,”

“When you look and see the potential in people, rather than focusing on their mistakes, you might find something beautiful.”

Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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