Melbourne’s Queer Community Calls For Justice After Police Wrongfully Raid LGBTIQ Bookstore

Victoria Police say they "stuffed up" after an innocent man's arm was shattered.

Hares & Hyenas

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Melbourne’s LGBTIQ community is demanding justice for an innocent man who was seriously injured when police wrongfully raided beloved queer bookstore Hares & Hyenas on the weekend.

Content warning: this post contains descriptions of home invasions and violent injury. 

Around 2am on Saturday morning, police broke in through a garage to raid an apartment adjoining the bookstore, according to a Facebook post by Hares & Hyenas co-owner, Crusader Hillis. According to Hillis, the cops involved did not identify themselves as police, leading those inside the apartment to believe they were being targeted in an anti-gay home invasion.

“Last night (2am) we were raided by the police who broke in through our garage as they thought that an armed member of a ‘Lebanese’ gang was inside. At no stage did they identify themselves as police,” Hills wrote.

“They just stormed into a dark room shining torches and it was impossible to identify them as police. Nik Dimopoulos, thinking it was an anti-gay home invasion rushed out the door, downstairs and on to the street where he was forcefully detained.”

“At no time did the police when they were chasing him say ‘stop, Police’ as you would expect. He had his hands tethered behind his back way beyond what can be endured, and then they had no implement to remove them even after an ambulance had been called. He could only see boots and rifles and was assuming he was going to be bashed or shot. He said he thought he was about to be killed.”

According to Hillis, Dimopoulos “is now in hospital with the likelihood of losing the use of his left arm, which is broken in several places from the shoulder down”. Nine reports that his injuries required complex surgery involving bone grafts and pins to restore shattered bone.

At a press conference today, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius apologised for the incident, saying that police “stuffed up” and had entered the property in error while searching for a man suspected of carjacking.

“It is clear to us that our attendance at that property was a mistake,” Cornelius said. “Those individuals had no involvement in any criminal activity and no involvement in the matter that our people were investigating. It’s very clear to us that police stuffed this one up.” 

“I have to say, I am appalled by the extent of the injuries and, on behalf of Victoria Police, I am very sorry, both for the mistake we made in entering that property and also in relation to the extent of the injuries suffered by the individual who was mistakenly arrested by us.”

The Assistant Commissioner added the Dimopoulos’ injuries “demand explanation” and “a thorough and independent investigation”. At present, however, the incident is being investigated by the Victoria Police Professional Standards Command, a subsection of Victoria Police itself.

Melbourne Queer Community Floods Bookstore With Show Of Support

In the aftermath of the attack, Melbourne’s LGBTIQ community and allies have flooded Hares & Hyenas with a show of support, both online and in-store.

People are showing their support by buying books from Hares & Hyenas, telling stories about what the bookstore means to them, and raising funds for Dimopoulos’ recovery.

Members of the community have also encouraged others to write to local and state MPs calling for an independent investigation into the incident and police brutality more generally.

Calls For An Independent Investigation Into Victoria Police’s Conduct

Premier Daniel Andrews has said that the government “will look very closely at what has happened”, but many have called for further action to ensure an independent investigation takes place, rather than just letting the police resolve this on their own.

Last year, Victoria’s Independent Broad-Based Anti Corruption Commission (IBAC) found a number of serious deficiencies in Victoria Police’s internal investigations process, and made a series of recommendations to Parliament aiming to address those problems.

Victorian MP Fiona Patten is amongst those calling for the government to urgently implement those recommendations following the Hares & Hyenas raid.

“When the police are responsible for investigating themselves, people can’t be confident in the outcome,” Patten said. “Awful events like this must be investigated thoroughly, and my hope is, independently.”

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Anthony Kelly from the Police Accountability Project, a public interest legal project based in Victoria, said that what happened to Nik Dimopoulos was not an isolated incident.

“We have spoken to many people who have suffered this sort of violence from Victoria Police and the effects are long lasting,” Kelly said. “And often, there is so little accountability after these incidents.”

“We speak to many families who have been raided, other international students who have been hospitalised by the critical incident response team. We are not seeing changes, and that is the crux of the matter for us. Victoria Police are still operating with such a high degree of impunity. It is why we are continuing to put the onus back on the Victorian government to ensure that there are robust, clear independent investigative measures after incidents like this that can ensure accountability and see systemic change.”