Australia is investigating a US police attack on two Australian television journalists outside the White House, the foreign minister said Tuesday, expressing “strong concerns” about the assault caught live on camera.
“We have asked the Australian embassy in Washington, DC to investigate this incident,” Marise Payne said after the journalists were slammed with a riot shield, punched and hit with a baton while broadcasting from the protest.
“I want to get further advice on how we would go about registering Australia’s strong concerns with the responsible local authorities in Washington,” she said, indicating a formal complaint would follow.
Footage showed 7NEWS reporter Amelia Brace being clubbed with a truncheon and cameraman Tim Myers being hit with a riot shield and punched in the face by police clearing Washington’s Lafayette Square of protesters on Monday.
The journalists said they were later shot with rubber bullets and tear-gassed, which Brace said left the pair “a bit sore”.
The incident was widely broadcast in Australia, causing consternation in a country that has been a close US ally.
The US ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., said on Twitter: “We take mistreatment of journalists seriously, as do all who take democracy seriously.”
– ‘Very troubling –
US police — with support from military personnel — had forcibly cleared the square of peaceful protesters to allow President Donald Trump to leave the White House for a photo opportunity.
Trump has faced fierce criticism for his handling of week-long protests over the death in custody of an unarmed African-American man in Minneapolis.
George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In several cities, the demonstrations have spiralled into rioting, violent confrontations with police and looting, prompting National Guard deployments to around two dozen US states and strictly enforced curfews.
Payne steered clear of criticising Trump directly, highlighting the delicate balancing act US allies face when registering unease with his administration.
“This is obviously a very troubling period in the United States and a very tough period at so many levels,” she told ABC radio.
“We are always supportive of people’s right to peaceful protest and we encourage all involved on both sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence.”
Meanwhile in Sydney more than 1,000 people marched by the US consulate in solidarity with American protesters, and called on their own government to do more to stop the abuse of Aboriginal Australians.
“Black Lives is a worldwide movement, it is not just an American movement,” said Tristan Field, a First Nations protester.
“There are black people dying in Australia just as much as there are black people dying in America right now.”
In the three decades since a government inquest into Aboriginal deaths in custody, there have been 420 more cases, according to an Amnesty International tally, without any convictions being recorded as a result.