Over the last couple of weeks two violent incidents occurred involving members of the African community in Melbourne. The first one took place in Seaford on the side of a Basketball game, approximately ten days ago and the later one occurred outside a Carlton nightclub, just a few days ago.
AMA understands that both incidents involved mostly young Australians from a South Sudanese background. The incidents were widely reported by mainstream media around the country with almost every television channel and the two major newspapers in Melbourne having published something about these events. Most of the reports appear to focus only on the dramatic part of the incidents and do not really go into any serious analysis of what exactly took place, how things escalated, what were the causes of the violence and who are the individuals responsible for these brawls.
One thing that is positive about the way the incidents were reported in the media is the fact that, unlike what was happening just a couple of years or so ago, the reporters appear to be a little more cautious on how they link the incidents to the African community as a whole. There are a lot less verbal references to the nationality or ethnicity of the people involved, even though, in the case of TV reports, the sequencing of the image shots used in the reporting and the overall tone used in telling the stories are still indicative of the reporters’ intention to represent the people involved as “violent groups” (and underneath this is the image of South Sudanese or African Community), rather than talk about the individuals concerned without any reference to their respective communities.
Many of the young people involved in these incidents, especially the Carlton night club one, appear to be very critical of both the media and Victoria Police in the way the handled things. Some lament Victoria Police’s disproportionate use of force and they believe that police unnecessarily provoked many people who had nothing to do with the violence. Apparently, the police used pepper/capsicum spray indiscriminately on all young people of dark skin who were around without the need to do so. Others condemn the media for inaccurate reporting on what exactly took place and the fact that no media report mentioned what they see as inappropriate handling of the incidents by Victoria Police.
Violence needs to be condemned no matter where it comes from. Whilst youth violence is relatively common around night clubs and sport games in many communities, it is simply unacceptable to see groups of young men brandishing machetes and using them to hurt others in the middle of the street of Melbourne. At the same time, we also need to hear what the young people are saying about these events in order to understand what steps may be required to help prevent such things from re-occuring.
Here is a message found on social media platforms from what appears to be a reaction from some of the young people directly involved in the incidents. These paragraphs sum up a sentiment that is echoed by many African individuals on various social media platforms:
“ Individuals & some groups fight in nightclubs on a regular basis. Never do you shut down the whole club or capsicum spray the entire patrons, why does it then only occur in majority African Australian nightclubs. In this incident the news report that police reported 200-250 people were involved in a wild brawl, however that is inconsistent with numerous eye witnesses who state that only a small group was involved in a fight, and the police rolled up in numbers provoking the majority of patrons leaving the venue, most of whom are law abiding citizens. The police took their provocation further by randomly deploying capsicum spray, which left many shocked and angry at the behaviour of the very people who are entrusted to serve & protect.
There’s been similar reports of incidents where police roll up in big numbers to majority African nightclubs and shut it down simply because of one fight, where as other nightclubs would have multiple fights and police simply deal with the people involved. Africans are no different to others, we will have those that will fight in nightclubs, but because the majority of patrons are black does not mean all are involved!!!! It has also often been reported that Police await patrons of majority African nightclubs outside in big numbers to provoke & force moving on law abiding citizens and arrest anyone that resists or simply questions their heavy handed approach.
We urge that a review of protocols is conducted asap in relation to this matter. If someone commits a crime then we expect that they are dealt with according to the law, however not everyone in the vicinity is a criminal and gets treated like one just because they are black.
We are disgusted by the behavior of some youths in general, not just the African community and we are not asking for concessions or to be treated any different to anyone else. We only demand fair and non-discriminatory treatment as per the values of Victoria Police “Integrity. Leadership. Flexibility. Respect. Support. Professionalism.”Thank you for making Victoria a safer place for all of us to live in.