Protest on Trial: Day 8

Monday May 14th

Inspector Mick Beattie of Victoria Police continued his testimony under cross examination.

Inspector Beattie testified that it was the decision of QV management as to if and when to make an announcement to the protestors that Inspector Beattie had prepared. The announcement stated in part: “Where you are presently located is private property… I have been authorised to act by the owners of this private property.”

Prior to preparing this statement, Inspector Beattie had sought clarification that QV shopping centre, and in particular QV Square (the scene of the protest on July 1 last year) was private property, in order to make sure that there was a correct basis for any police action on the night.

Asked whether there had been any consideration given to the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities when drafting the statement, Inspector Beattie answered “no”. Nor was the Charter considered when setting the police line on the night of the rally, nor in making arrests, though there may well have been some discussion to the Charter in some point leading up to the protest, and it may have been addressed in the operational order for the night.

Regarding the pushing between a line of police police and a line of demonstrators during one part of the demonstration, Inspector Beattie testified that it was “very clear” that the police line was passive, and the protestors were the ones pushing: “All the initiative that I saw was protestors pushing backwards with a considerable amount of force… Police had to be brought to reinforce the line to avoid protestors breaking through.”

This was apparent in the overhead footage shot by CCTV on the night, Inspector Beattie testified. When it was suggested that this push and shove had stopped by the time police came out to engage with the protestors beyond the line in front of Max Brenner, Inspector Beattie testified that this was “not my recollection”.

Inspector Beattie was asked if he recalled a woman speaking on a megaphone as police filed out to form a second line, shortly before arrests commenced in QV Square, saying “we are a non violent movement and we would appreciate it if you could just settle down please and refrain from violence”. He said he could recall generally such a statement but not any specific timing.

Under further cross examination, Inspector Beattie testified as to the meetings involving Victoria Police, QV and Melbourne Central leading up to the protest on July 1. There had been discussion of civil action, Inspector Beattie testified, and “banning orders may have been mentioned at some stage”. Criminal charges of trespass and besetting had been discussed as “possible responses” to the protest. In general the meetings had widesly canvassed all sorts of options to deal with this protest group.

Inspector Beattie testified that there was no decision between shopping centre management and the police on a fixed time limit of 20 minutes for the protest, though 20 minutes had certainly been discussed. Inspector Beattie was read a time line of events compiled from the CCTV operator at QV, that showed that the first warning to leave was given precisely twenty minutes after protestors arrived in QV Square. Inspector Beattie replied that he “can’t quite line up those numbers, but I’m not saying they are wrong either”.

Discussing the relationship between shopping centre management and Victoria Police, Inspector Beattie tesified: “They had no influence over our actions. They informed me when they wanted to draw the line on the trespass… but it was still my decision whether to act on it.”

Inspector Beattie agreed that it was essential to a democratic society that police be seen as apolitical and neutral, and that police did not want to be favouring one side, especially in a protest situation.

Inspector Beattie was questioned about whether he recalled being approached by Shane Anderson, one of the accused, acting in the capacity of police liaison for the protestors, early in the protest. Inspector Beattie didn’t recall, though he could not rule out that this had happened. Inspector Beattie testified: “I was focused on the big picture, it was pretty clear who the leadership group was, and this person was not one of them, so maybe I did not want to engage.”

Inspector Beattie further testified: “This group did not want to communicate with us pre or during. I can rule it out that that approach was made.” When it was put to Inspector Beattie that Shane Anderson was police liaison for the protestors, and that Beattie had deliberately rebuffed him, Inspector Beattie replied “no”.

Under re-examination, Inspector Beattie was was asked about his belief that the group did not want to communicate. He testified that this belief was based on feedback from Rick Burchett of the Police Security and Intelligence Group. Mr Burchett had been tasked with attempting to contact the protest group and reported to Inspector Beattie that he had been unsuccessful, despite leaving messages on mobile phone services.

Finally, Inspector Beattie testified that the actions of protestors in pushing back on police lines had overtaken other considerations in his decision making on the night. Although “the trespass situation was a tick in the box”, Inspector Beattie regarded protestors backing into the police line as “an insidious form of assault police as a tactic that overtook my decision making, and had everything to do with tasking Senior Sergeant Falconer to go into the crowd, speak with Vashti Kenway and then to make arrests.”

Mr Vijay Kandasamy was controlling the CCTV camera that captured much of the protest in QV Square, and gave detailed evidence on the extent and nature of CCTV coverage of QV. The only instruction he had been given on the night was to maintain close up shots of as many protestors as possible in QV Square. Only the footage from QV Square had been requested by the police via QV security, he testified. Footage from the loading dock and Red Cape Lane had not been requested.

Ashish Shrestha is the Victorian State Manager for Max Brenner Chocolates. He had been advised of the protest a couple of days beforehand by the national chain manager, he testified. He had not been involved in discussions with police prior to the protest. Preparations for the protest included employing one extra security guard at the Max Brenner store in both Melbourne Central and QV, and removing much of the outdoor furniture at the QV store.

Mr Shrestha agreed that police effectively blocked off Red Cape Lane before protestors arrived at QV Square. There were 10 or 15 customers at the store at the time the protest started. Some stayed for a considerable time into the protest.

Senior Constable McLachlan testified that he was wearing plain clothes on the night of July 1 and that he filmed the protest. He described the protest assembling at the State Library, proceeding to Melbourne Central and then to QV. He testified that he had witnessed Inspector Beattie trying to address the crowd three times, but that “the crowd became more vocal” at these points and made it difficult to hear.

Under cross examination, Senior Constable McLachlan testified that he was given a pamphlet about particulr people who might be at the rally, but could not recall why he had been asked to focus on them. Beyond that, he had not been given any direction as to what to film at the rally.

At one point Senior Constable McLachlan had walked around the southern end of the police line outside the Max Brenner store at QV. The only person that had tried to stop him getting closer to the Max Brenner store was a police officer. He told this officer “Its alright mate I’m on the job” and showed his police ID.

In his statement, Senior Constable McLachlan declared “At Max Brenners there was a contingent of police preventing anyone from entering the store.” Under cross examination he acknowledged that he meant the police were preventing protestors from entering the store.

Constable Campbell also wore plain clothes on the night and took video footage of the protestors. She was aware of the charge of besetting as “it was spoken about in the briefing”. The aim of the protestors that night, Constable Campbell had been told, was to make an effort to stop people going into Max Brenner: “We were trying to stop the protestors from doing this.”

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