SYDNEY: Australian police opened an investigation Tuesday after officers were filmed pinning down and apparently striking an Aboriginal man several times during an arrest, as mass protests over the treatment of indigenous people continue.
Video uploaded to social media on Monday evening showed police in Adelaide, South Australia, holding a man against a fence and appearing to punch him several times while on the ground.
South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said an unspecified number of officers had been put on administrative duty ahead of an investigation by a senior officer after the incident on Monday night.
“The video that was uploaded onto social media overnight obviously caused concern in terms of the police response,” Stevens said.
Earlier this month, a Sydney police officer was put on restricted duties pending investigation after footage showed him slamming an indigenous teenager into the ground during an arrest.
The Adelaide incident follows weeks of protests across Australia at the large number of Aboriginal people who die in custody, as well as in solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement.
Residents – who filmed the arrest – can be heard in some videos yelling for police to release the man.
Pepper-spray was used after some of the residents “became agitated” toward officers, a police spokesperson said.
Police said they had been responding to a separate incident when they stopped the 28-year-old on suspicion of carrying drugs.
“The man originally was compliant and after a short time he began to refuse. Police attempted to arrest the man who resisted and a struggle ensued,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.
During the arrest, police said one officer’s body-cam was damaged, but commissioner Stevens said he had seen some footage from the scene.
Latoya Rule, an activist against indigenous deaths in custody, said the man had been released with some injuries.
She called on the officers involved to be charged with “aggravated assault”.
People from the Aboriginal community are vastly over-represented in Australia’s prison population, and there have been more than 400 indigenous deaths in custody in the last three decades.
No prosecutions have been brought over the deaths, despite dozens of investigations, inquests and in some cases video evidence of abuse.
Police insisted the Adelaide investigation was being “taken very seriously” and would be dealt with as “a matter of priority”.