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Police use heavy-handed tactics against mining protestors

<p>Hundreds of climate protesters turned up to blockade the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) on its first day, leading to 50 arrests and four hospitalisations.</p>

Content warning: criminal enforcement, physical assault

Hundreds of climate protesters turned up to blockade the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) on its first day, leading to 50 arrests and four hospitalisations.

Protestors from 11 different groups arrived at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at 6:00am on Tuesday. They formed a blockade by linking arms to prevent IMARC delegates, representing over 400 global mining companies, from attending the conference. The conference is sponsored by the Victorian state government and the University of Melbourne, as well as companies like Rio Tinto and BHP.

Students from the University of Melbourne were among the protesters present on Tuesday, five days after demonstrating against the University’s sponsorship of IMARC.

Anneke Demanuele, a member of Socialist Alternative and Blockade IMARC Alliance, thought the blockade was a success today.

“It’s important that the climate criminals attending the IMARC conference had the choice of pushing through protestors or not going to the conference at all. Conferences like IMARC shouldn’t go ahead without disruption. Companies like BHP, Rio Tinto and others are destroying the planet and killing indigenous people—all to maximise profits. It’s disgusting.”

Around 300 police officers were stationed in and around the convention today, according to Victoria Police acting commander Tim Tully.

Tensions flared as police officers used batons and pepper spray on protesters. Mounted officers forced protesters aside to create paths for delegates to walk through, while protesters called them “murderers” with “blood on [their] hands”.

One 23-year-old Chilean protestor was taken to hospital for suspected broken legs after allegedly being trampled by a police horse.

Demanuele said, “I think the police behaviour was totally out of line, they were violent from 6:30am. It was excessive and violent.”

Police behaviour today has been criticised by a number of key figures including former Greens senator Lee Rhiannon and Djab Wurrung Traditional Owner and former Victorian state MP Lidia Thorpe.

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) issued a statement this afternoon that said protestors committed “at worst very minor” offences that “do not justify the use of batons, punches, kicks, dangerous use of horses”; however, Tully said that “actions have been more than justified”.

At 10:00am, a sheltered entry point was created for delegates at the Clarendon Street entrance. The blockade was subsequently stretched to further prevent delegates from entering, resulting in the arrest of several protestors who were allegedly obstructing a footpath, Tully said. Two police officers were also taken to hospital with a dislocated finger and minor head injuries.

Protestors will be back on Wednesday and Thursday to disrupt the 7000 delegates that are expected to attend the three day conference. This story is ongoing.

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