MELBOURNE, Australia, Oct. 14 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life Victorian Member of Parliament Bernie Finn says he is furious after dozens of police stood idly by while participants in this weekend’s March for the Babies were thrown to the ground, kicked, stomped on, pelted with eggs, verbally abused and had their signs stolen right from their hands.
Finn, the main organizer of the event, described the disturbing events as “literally a mass public mugging.” The attackers were “using the most obscene language and seemed to be singling out women and children,” he told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN). He says he remembers thinking at one point: “So this is what Satan sounds like.”
The 200 pro-abortion protesters, plus police, were easily outnumbered by the 3000 pro-lifers, but according to organisers, the self-control of the March For The Babies attendees was the only thing that stopped an all-out riot from developing.
As far back as 1997, pro-abortion counter-protesters have set out to deliberately sabotage the otherwise peaceful pro-life march. But in the past the protesters have numbered less than 50. This year saw an unprecedented surge in numbers and bravado.
The pro-life marchers only made it three city blocks from the assembly point before they were met by the counter-protesters, who blocked their path and refused to move. Other protesters made their way through the pro-life crowd from the rear of the march, physically assaulting people, tearing signs out of their hands and throwing them to the ground.
Finn and guest speaker, American pro-life activist Bryan Kemper, decided to kneel down and pray. The 14 front-line police officers then formed a barrier to keep the protesters back. Both sides continued the standoff for another 90 minutes, with march organizers under the belief that additional police were on their way to remove the protesters.
The lengthy blockage of the main city street resulted in traffic gridlock through the Melbourne central business district.
After the 90 minutes, the march participants were directed by the organizers back in the opposite direction and up a side street, an alternate route to get to Parliament house whilst avoiding the protesters.
When they were half way there, the police suddenly ordered them to stop. Finn, concerned about getting the marchers to the steps of Parliament without further confrontation, repeatedly asked the officers “Can we go now?” and the reply was “No.”
“’There is a reason for this,' the police were saying, but they would not tell him what it was,” Finn said. Bizarrely, “Once the counter protesters had caught up, suddenly we were allowed to proceed.”
For Bernie Finn this development was a debacle. “We had backtracked and gone up through Russell Street to avoid confrontation and at that point (of continuing) the demonstrators were in front of us and the confrontation was on again.”
When the March For The Babies participants reached their destination, they found their stage already occupied by more pro-abortion protesters, and surrounded by police.
According to Kemper, this is when the protesters really started to get violent, and he was thrown to the ground and stomped on. Several of his team members were similarly assaulted. The protesters raced ahead to also take over the stage on the steps of Parliament, tearing down the banners and barricades.
Eventually the police cleared the protesters away. At this point, reclaiming the stage, Bryan held up a pro-life sign and “the crowd went nuts” as he proclaimed that this generation is the one that will abolish abortion.
The improved police numbers at Parliament were still not enough. “We had been assured by police that they had the reinforcements to protect us at parliament, but that was clearly not the case,” said Finn.
For Finn, the first indication of problems was when he had his first meeting with the police commander for the day, who made it clear that she was not sympathetic to the pro-life activists. “We suspected that there would be a degree of difficulty after that meeting, but didn’t realise how much we would have by the middle of Saturday,” Finn said.
That commander was the same officer Bernie contacted when it looked like a riot was about to happen. “Are you about to do something?” he says he asked her, to which she responded. “About what?” At that point Finn said he “realised that it wasn’t even worth talking to her. I told her she was a disgrace to her uniform and walked away.”
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Finn said his issue is not with the front-line police who were there, but with the command. “A number of them made it clear to us, almost apologetically, that they couldn’t do anything because they had been ordered not to.”
“My view is that the officer in charge of operations yesterday must be held responsible for what happened. Bryan [Kemper] turned to me yesterday in the midst of it all and said ‘if this happened in America somebody would lose their job’.”
“The police were useless,” Kemper told LSN.
The Victorian police media unit has claimed that there were no reports of assault. But according to Finn, at least half a dozen people he spoke to had the same experience as he did, where physical assaults happened in view of police, yet no arrests were made despite the pleas of the victims. “We’re talking about physical assaults where people were kicked, punched or stomped on, not the verbal abuse.”
Seventy-four-year old Kay Painter from Operation Outcry and Remembering SARA told LSN that she was pushed from behind and almost knocked to the ground by pro-abortion protesters whilst carrying her sign stating, “My abortion hurt me.”
Painter was also carrying her purse and camera, and had to loosen her grip on her sign in an effort to catch herself from losing balance and falling over. The pro-abortion protesters then wrenched the sign out of her hands, threw it on the ground and stomped on it. As she tried to retrieve the sign, the pro-abortion protesters held their hands out to stop her from reaching it.
The sign, which she had custom made at her own expense, was later set on fire.
According to Painter, a Victorian policeman was present when it happened, literally two or three feet away. Painter said to him, “That's my sign. He took it. I want it back. Help me.” She says the policeman only shrugged his shoulders, turned and walked away.
Finn said he will be raising the matter in parliament this week, and is calling for an independent inquiry in to what happened. He says he is thankful for the messages of support from people who have made contact through Facebook and email.
“We will not let this kind of behaviour intimidate us,” he said. “We will not be cowed by thugs and bullies. The pro-life cause marches on.”
The Hon. Kim Wells Minister for Police and Emergency Services [email protected]
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay
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