Attendees of Friday night’s Black Lives Matter protests in Sydney say they were left terrified after an officer appeared to flash a hand symbol associated with the white power movement.
Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in the Sydney CBD to draw attention to Australia’s record on Indigenous deaths in custody.
Protester Jen Atherton filmed the video after the group was moved out of Hyde park by dozens of police officers and both parties made their way to Town Hall.
“It was just really shocking,” Atherton said.
The symbol is extremely similar to the “OK” hand gesture but has been used by white power movements in recent years.
“You can’t really ever confirm but … I don’t see why he would be saying everything was OK in that moment,,” Atherton said.
NSW police have denied the gesture was in any way related to the white power movement.
“The officer has been spoken to and did not intentionally make a gesture that could be deemed offensive,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
“Further, the officer indicated he was responding to a group of women about the night being ‘OK’ and used a hand symbol as he was wearing a face mask. He did not know the gesture had any other meaning.
“The NSW police force works closely to foster a strong and cohesive partnership with Aboriginal communities and other groups and does not appreciate irresponsible inflammatory commentary in this space.”
Atherton did not accept the police’s account of events.
“I don’t believe it for a second. It was directly to the camera and I was clearly a protester.”
The video was taken at the corner of Pitt and Park St in the CBD.
More than 600 officers flooded the CBD on Friday night as about 300 people protested against Aboriginal deaths in custody.
One of the rally’s organisers,Lizzie Gareth, described the police presence as “
cousin of David Dungay who died in Long Bay prison in 2015 after being held down by prison guards
One person, a 24-year-old woman, was issued a fine for disobeying a move-on direction at the protest on Friday night.