The University of Sydney has expressed outrage over footage showing two NSW police officers pushing a professor and student to the ground during a protest against cuts to higher education.
A spokeswoman for the Univerity said it did not “invite” the officers to its campus where a group of up to 300 students objecting to fee hikes and staff cuts had been protesting peacefully.
It said it was “very disturbed” by two videos; the first showing one of its staff members, Professor Simon Rice, being dragged away by police and thrown to the ground before being ordered to remain seated on a footpath.
The second video which has also gone viral online shows another officer throwing a young, female student against the gutter.
The University spokeswoman said anyone who believes they were “treated poorly” should make a formal complaint against NSW Police, adding that it “strongly defends” their students’ right to protest.
“We did not invite NSW police on to campus today,” the spokeswoman said.
“NSW police did contact us once ahead of the event and twice during it. We confirmed we were aware activity was planned, based on social media.
“We provided no further information or judgment about the activities and did not make any requests.”
Professor Rice, who specialises in teaching about protest law, said he was merely observing Wednesday’s demonstration when an officer used “disproportionate force” and threw him to the ground.
That was after they “kicked my legs out from under me” and he tried to get up, Professor Rice, a chair in law and social justice told the Guardian.
“The only way I could get out was to walk through to Parramatta Road, then when I walked past the police they made a move,” he said.
“It was violent without causing any particular harm. Disproportionate force, completely unjustified.”
Professor Rice said he was then arrested and fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.
University student Shovan Bhattarai who was seen in the other video being pushed to the ground by an officer said she sustained “a deep graze” on her arm and “bruises” on one side of her body.
The woman who was attending the rally said she and a group of friends had been trying to cross the road 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,” Ms Bhattarai told the Guardian.
“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.”
Higher education spokesperson for the Greens Mehreen Faruqi said students were right to be “outraged by what is happening to our universities”.
“They have the right to express their views without being subject to violence or intimidation,” she said.
“NSW police are clearly feeling emboldened at the moment and they went after students and university staff today. It’s incredibly disturbing stuff. Even bystanders weren’t spared.”