Inside story behind video showing five cops surround elderly women on a park bench in Melbourne as ‘stunned’ witness who filmed the incident reveals what REALLY happened
- A police officer snatched an elderly woman’s phone from her hand in Melbourne
- Five officers swarmed two elderly women sitting on a park bench on Saturday
- A cop stood behind the woman and quickly snatched her phone from her hand
- Witness who filmed stand-off said the police actions were lacking in humanity
- ‘It was unnecessary. They weren’t endangering anyone’s lives,’ bystander said
A stunned witness who filmed two elderly women be threatened with arrest for refusing to identify themselves to police in Melbourne has lashed out at the officers for showing ‘a lack of humanity’.
Elia Palombino was riding his bike along the locked-down city’s Tan track at about 11am on Saturday when he saw five masked officers surround the women.
One woman could be heard during the confrontation asking the officers ‘on what grounds am I under arrest? This is unlawful’.
An officer was then filmed snatching a mobile phone from the other women from behind when she tried to film the stand-off.
Mr Palombino said he eventually moved on from the scene when he thought police were starting to eye him down and did not know if the elderly women were arrested.
Five officers were filmed by a bystander swarming around two elderly women sitting on a park bench in the Victorian capital on Saturday
Victoria Police have not revealed details of the incident, saying the large number of police involved in Saturday’s Freedom Day protest made it difficult to track down the relevant officers.
The Melbourne tiler said one of the women was holding a sign protesting against the strict Stage Four restrictions enforcing nightly curfews and further restrictions on the movements of the city’s residents.
‘They were threatening these women for not identifying themselves – it was unnecessary. They were not endangering anyone’s lives. They were just sat next to each other protesting the lockdown,’ Mr Palombino told Daily Mail Australia.
The bystander – who came back 40 minutes later to find the two women were no longer there – said he hoped they had simply been told to move on by police and not taken into custody.
Under Stage Four restrictions in place in the COVID-19-besieged city, residents are only allowed to leave home between 5am and 9pm for work, exercise, essential shopping or caregiving.
‘It was sneaky and disturbing to see police take the phone off her. You don’t do that. They have a right to record anything,’ Mr Palombino said.
The witness, who is originally from the Molise region of central Italy but moved to the Victorian capital eight years ago, said he was pleased his handheld footage had gone viral online.
Elia Palombino, who filmed the stand-off, said the actions of police showed a lack of ‘humanity’
‘I probably wasn’t expecting that response but I’m happy to show the bad side of police,’ he said.
‘There are a lot of good officers but what I saw showed a lack of humanity.
‘We have a bigger problem in Melbourne and it’s not about the lockdown – it’s about the police not being compassionate.’
He added he supported the Freedom Day protesters who demonstrated in the city on Saturday, saying the right to protest was vital in a democratic society.
The footage showed the women refusing to follow orders as the officers circled them on Saturday morning.
‘No, I’m not standing up,’ the woman could be heard telling the officers in the footage.
Saturday’s incident happened while a ‘Freedom Day’ protest took place in Melbourne
‘On what grounds am I under arrest? This is unlawful.’
The woman then raised her voice to again ask why she was being arrested.
‘For failing to provide your name and address,’ one of the female officers responded.
A Victoria Police spokesman said: ‘Generally speaking, it is an offence to not provide your name and details to police when they believe you have either committed or are about to commit an offence.
‘As part of their powers, police have the ability to remove items from a person’s possession where necessary to effect an arrest.’
Saturday’s incident happened while a ‘Freedom Day’ protest took place in the city.
Police said seven people were charged with breaching COVID-19 directions after some 200 people gathered to protest near the city centre.
Officers and Melburnians fall to the ground during dramatic arrests from the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday
Scuffles between demonstrators and police resulted in more than 160 fines for contravening lockdown measures or not wearing a mask.
‘Despite all the warnings, it was disappointing to see individuals turn out to protest in the city, putting the lives of Victorians at risk,’ a police statement said.
Victoria Police charged a protester with assault after an officer suffered cuts to the head during the anti-lockdown rally.
A photographer at the scene said a man punched officers at the city’s Shrine of Remembrance before being fitted with a mask and handcuffs.
Later at Albert Park, police reportedly surrounded a group of about 30-50, pushing some to the ground.
Some of the demonstrators carried placards with anti-government sentiments and at one stage were singing the national anthem.