Queensland police say a video in which an officer appears to hit a refugee protester in the head at a Brisbane rally on Sunday makes the incident “appear far worse than it is”.
- Those at the rally have described watching an officer sprint up to the protester before hitting him
- Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners says the officer’s actions were “appropriate”
- He says police have reviewed video of the incident taken from multiple angles
But Jeff Rickertt, the man was injured in the incident, rejected the police assessment of the incident as “complete nonsense”.
“I felt the force of the real. My initial reaction was that I’d been hit by a fist,” Mr Rickertt said after being released from hospital on Monday afternoon.
He said a CT scan had found no serious head injury, and that he had a laceration on his ear and a dull headache but “otherwise I’m fine”.
Tensions between police and activists had been building over a series of protests against the ongoing detention of refugees and asylum seekers at a hotel in the Brisbane suburb of Kangaroo Point.
Protesters provided the ABC with video of what some activists believed was a police officer hitting Mr Rickertt without provocation.
Mr Rickertt was standing by a fence that been erected around the hotel exterior.
He was taken to the Mater Hospital after the incident.
“I was struck on the side of the head and for about two hours thereafter the side of my head and my ear were numb with the force of that impact,” Mr Rickertt said.
On Monday, Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners told a media conference he believed the actions of the officer were “appropriate”.
He said the officer did not strike Mr Rickertt in the video and that the camera angle of the video made the incident “appear far worse than it is”.
He said other footage available online showed the incident from different angles and he encouraged people to review it.
“The circumstances are what they are — review the footage.”
One protester, Ruby, said she was among the crowd on Sunday afternoon, standing one person away from Mr Rickertt.
Protesters told the ABC a group of 15 to 20 people were slapping their hands against the fence to make noise the men inside the hotel could hear.
“The man who had been targeted by the police officer wasn’t actually touching the fence at the time, he had stepped back, and that’s when I saw an extremely charged officer who sprinted up and hit him with full force on the left side of his head,” Ruby said.
She said she stayed with Mr Rickertt while he was on the ground.
“He was quite slow in responding. When he started to respond, we noticed that there was blood coming out of his ear and he was sweating and shaking a lot.”
‘Directions of police were ignored’
Superintendent Andrew Pilotto said the protest was unauthorised and that many in attendance “were not cooperating with police”.
“Prior to the police moving in to safeguard that fence, quite a number of directions were given to protesters to release the fence, step back stand down and re-join the group, and those directions of police were ignored over a considerable period,” Superintendent Pilotto said.
“A lot of these people are in police officers’ faces for long periods of time, yelling at police officers, throwing things in their faces.”
Mr Rickertt said he was not grabbed by the shirt or the neck, and was not near the fence when he was targeted.
“I was also conscious throughout the whole process,” he said.
“I was very aware that I fell to the ground and I’m also very aware that I did not strike my head on the ground.
“The force of the real to my head by the police officer was what caused the injury that I have.”
Police are reviewing the matter internally.