We all know what the symbols imply. So what’s VicPol doing about it?
Police are supposed to guard all of us. They’re among the solely civilians we enable to make use of violence within the title of peace and, from a younger age, we’re taught that we are able to at all times go to them for assist. However at instances, their actions — and the dearth of condemnation from their superiors — could make it look like not everyone seems to be, in truth, beneath their safety.
Victoria Police have been noticed with imagery related to the far-right previously 12 months, fuelling considerations of poor attitudes in direction of minorities from throughout the power.
Officers have been seen, and photographed, with white supremacist-associated imagery on their our bodies, uniforms, and autos, even when tasked to work on racially delicate occasions like Indigenous rights protests — regardless of the symbols being banned or required to be lined up.
Skinny Blue Line patches have been seen a number of instances. Tattoos related to far-right actions have additionally been noticed, in addition to extremist memes on officers’ private social media accounts. The skinny blue line patch is an Australian model of the American pro-police and anti-Black Lives Matter image, which is alleged to symbolise help for police however has additionally now change into synonymous with opposing Black Lives Matter and is flown at racist events. Donald Trump even adopted it to signify his opposition to Black Lives Matter.
Not too long ago, a police officer was photographed handing a Skinny Blue Line patch to a toddler to pose with in Chelsea, in Melbourne’s South East. A Fb put up characterises the interplay because the youngster “incomes his sergeant’s stripes”, however the patch is clearly an Australian flag devoid of all color however a skinny blue line. Victoria Police advised Junkee that Skinny Blue Line patches weren’t allowed to be worn by officers.
In a response to Junkee’s questions concerning the incident, Victoria Police stated the kid was being handed a badge to put on to brighten his day. It didn’t reply to a query about whether or not or not VicPol authorised of the banned patched getting used as a prop.
One instance of the patch’s misuse was the “Unite The Right” in rally in Charlottesville, Louisiana, USA, the place far-right protestors additionally flew accomplice flags, chanted “Jews is not going to exchange us”, and an alt-right supporter mowed down a bunch of counter protestors in his automobile.
Anti-racist activist Tom Tanuki stated the Blue Lives Matter and the Skinny Blue Line actions have been onerous to separate from racism.
“It’s a response and response to BLM in America. It’s utilised in a method that sits alongside anti-BLM and anti-activist actions within the US,” he stated. “It’s more and more being taken to be an anti-Black rights actions image. It symbolises police as the skinny blue line between order and chaos.
“It situates Black individuals as being the chaos. That is simple stuff, it’s typically outwardly racist but it surely’s extra typically anti-social justice and activist.”
Black Lives Matter is an anti-racism motion, particularly arguing for an finish to racist policing. By sporting these patches at occasions associated to BLM, police have been sending a message, Mr Tanuki stated.
Skinny Blue Line patches have been additionally noticed on the Djab Wurrung trees protests in October, the place the Djapwurrung supporters have been combating to stop the lack of irreplaceable cultural artefacts, what they are saying is “genocide in movement”. Police stated they briefed officers on the bottom about sensitivity, however solely concerning the ladies’s camp on the Djab Wurrung web site and never concerning the racial battle on the coronary heart of the protest.
In Brisbane, a police officer was noticed sporting a Skinny Blue Line patch at a September Black Lives Matter Rally following the loss of life of Aunty Sherry in police custody. Queensland Police Force said he was told to remove it.
An email purported to be sent by VicPol management banned the sporting of the patch in response to the Queensland incident, citing its affiliation with white supremacists and the far-right.
On the similar Djab Wurrung protests, a police officer was noticed with a Valknut tattooed on his forearm. Police advised Junkee offensive tattoos have to be lined up, however didn’t reply to a query concerning the Valknut.
A Valknut is an emblem discovered on historic Viking artifacts, however its unique pagan that means can solely be speculated upon.
Anti-hate group ADL says: “Some white supremacists, particularly racist Odinists, have appropriated the Valknut to use as a racist symbol. Often they use it as a sign that they are willing to give their life to Odin, generally in battle.”
The police officer’s tattoo seems alongside one other which reads “Valhalla”, the legendary resting place of warriors who fall in battle.
Nevertheless, ADL says that “non-racist pagans” also can use the image, and warn that the context it seems in must be thought of.
Mr Tanuki stated that the looks of those two symbols was unlikely to be coincidental.”I can think about police didn’t realise or dwell on the importance of it and that bloke and his edgelord tattoos, I discover it unlikely on the finish of the day that officer wouldn’t know that significance,” he stated.
“The officers in query have come there to ship a message to protestors. The officers in query know what messages they’re sending.”
Mr Tanuki stated to stop the behaviour, higher-ups would wish to behave. “They don’t count on a foul response from their managers,” he stated. “The officers are exhibiting individuals what they consider their actions. In the event that they put on a skinny blue patch at an Indigenous sovereignty occasion, we all know what they imply.”
Late final yr police officer Travis Gray was additionally noticed giving the OK hand gesture on the violent Blockade IMARC protests, the place left-wing protestors tried to stop a fossil gas and mining convention from going forward.
The OK hand gesture has been coopted by white supremacists as a coded message that means “it’s OK to be white”. Grey directed the signal to an Asian-Australian girl who was sporting a t-shirt that learn “immigrant” in rainbow letters, she advised Junkee.
“Travis Grey observed me wanting and he began making faces at me, like taunting me. After which he gave me the OK image,” she stated. “A few minutes later, he got here as much as me and stated: ‘you possibly can take pictures, you possibly can take movies. It doesn’t matter, nothing will occur.’ He stated he was simply checking if I used to be OK. It felt intimidating.”
On the time, Victoria Police stated they have been extraordinarily upset and condemned the memes. When requested by Junkee if they’d taken any additional motion in opposition to Grey, they stated the protestor’s account was unsubstantiated.
Junkee despatched an inventory of inquiries to Victoria Police about all the photographs seen on this story. It didn’t straight reply to every query.
On their very own, the patches, stickers, and tattoos would usually not be trigger for concern, however given Victoria Police’s record of violence and over-policing towards minorities and protestors, and the added context that officers have been reportedly warned concerning the patch’s affiliation with far-right ideologies, makes the imagery appear extra sinister.
The Black Lives Matter motion in Australia is calling for accountability for the deaths in custody and over-policing of Indigenous individuals. To place this cheap request as “chaos” as Mr Tanuki put it, exhibits how the officers could actually really feel. They might declare ignorance however it’s almost unattainable to imagine.
If policing is to outlive the BLM reckoning and change into a power for good for all Australians, officers can not place themselves as an opposing power to these rightfully calling for justice.
Jim Malo is a journalist with an curiosity in politics and social justice. He tweets at @thejimmalo.