Shocking footage shows Australian police violently shoving student, professor during university protest

Professor Simon Rice and Shovan Bhattarai were shoved by police officers.
Professor Simon Rice and Shovan Bhattarai were shoved by police officers. Photo credit: Twitter/ Honi Soit

Shocking footage from protests at an Australian university shows police officers shoving a student and a professor to the ground on Wednesday.

Protesters have been demonstrating at the University of Sydney against the Government's proposed cuts to universities, but police were concerned they were breaking COVID-19 restrictions.

Footage captured by the university's student newspaper, Honi Soit shows police officers gathered and pushing University of Sydney law professor Simon Rice to the ground.

"I have been running an extracurricular volunteer law firm research project," Rice said.

"I have a bunch of students who are working on reforming protest laws. I told them there is a protest today and you may want to watch. I also chose to watch.

"The footage shows from a distance them pushing me down. That is actually the second time, they had kicked my legs out from under me and that was me trying to get up again, then they pushed me down."

He told The Guardian he was trying to walk around the protest when he was arrested.

"When I walked past the police they made a move," he said. "It was violent without causing any particular harm. Disproportionate force, completely unjustified."

Rice said he was fined AU$1000 for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

A separate video from the protests also shows a police officer pushing Shovan Bhattarai, a student from the University of New South Wales into a gutter.

Bhattarai, who was not arrested or fined, told The Guardian she was left with "a deep graze" on her arm and "bruises" up the side of her body.

"We were trying to cross the road as part of the rally march when police violently grabbed us, tried to kettle us in, and aggressively accosted some of us," she said.

"They threw me into the gutter and violently arrested and detained some others ...This is the violent response NSW police dish out to staff and students taking a stand against education cuts. Me and thousands of other students around the country will not be intimidated by these attacks."

Later on Wednesday, a University of Sydney spokesperson said they "strongly defend freedom of speech" and support their students and staff's right to express their views safely and respectfully.

"We are very disturbed by the footage we've seen of today's events," they said.

"We encourage anyone who thinks that they were treated poorly by the police to lay a complaint."

The spokesperson said the university had attempted to discuss the protest response with police but had not heard back.

"We will contact them again as a matter of urgency, and express our serious concerns. We will also reiterate our offer to discuss different approaches that might avoid similar situations occurring at future events."

In a statement, the New South Wales Police said officers attended the protest from 11:30am and by 1pm the protesters had moved out of the university's grounds, onto the surrounding streets.

They said they will issue 14 Penalty Infringement Notices of $1000 for breaches of the COVID-19 Public Health Order after the "unauthorised protest".