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22 Apr, 2020 18:13

‘Beyond insane’? Video of cops going after Australian ‘rooftop drinkers’ violating Covid-19 lockdown pushes people’s buttons

‘Beyond insane’? Video of cops going after Australian ‘rooftop drinkers’ violating Covid-19 lockdown pushes people’s buttons

A night-sight video showing police in Queensland, Australia, arresting three men for drinking on a rooftop in defiance of lockdown is making rounds and prompting comparison to 1984 and Nazi Germany, but not all may be as it seems.

The minute-long clip was posted on Wednesday by the UK-based Independent, and shows the trio of young men wearing hoodies being told by police they were surrounded and needed to surrender. According to the paper, the thermal imagery was filmed from a police helicopter.

Most of the reactions on Twitter to the video were incredulous at the scale of the police response, calling it “beyond an insane abuse of power” or “over policing at its finest.” 

“They wasted police resources to not only get a helo in the air, but [to] surround the building with officers? All for three guys drinking beers on a rooftop?” said one of the comments.

Others responded with memes comparing the Queensland constabulary with Hitler, IngSoc from Orwell’s 1984, or the East German Stasi.

“The hellfire missile that followed seems over the top,”quipped Ben Shapiro, a conservative US commenter, referring to videos of US drone strikes against suspected terrorists that use the same kind of thermal imagery.

If one Australian journalist is to be believed, however, the story behind the video is more mundane and much less Mad Max. Melbourne-based journalist Tyson Whelan tweeted that the trio had broken into a construction site at night, and the police were responding to a report of trespassing, before detaining and fining them for violating social-distancing rules.

The video does show the trio descending through scaffolding that would indicate a construction site. According to the Queensland lockdown rules, gatherings of more than two people in a public space are illegal and subject to a fine of AU$1,334.50 (approximately $842) on the spot.

It is perfectly fine to have “up to two visitors who are not ordinarily members of the person's household" – as long as they maintain their distance, anyway – under the guidelines, last revised on April 2. 

Queensland declared a public health emergency over Covid-19 at the end of January, and has extended the regime through at least May 19. The state’s police have not commented on the story, and the video cannot be found on their Twitter or Facebook feeds. 

Australia has so far registered a total of 6,647 Covid-19 cases and 74 fatalities, of which six were in Queensland.

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