Footage has emerged of police officers arresting an Aboriginal teenager who was having a panic attack in Redfern, New South Wales.
Anaywan and Birripa woman Tarniesha Widders was arrested on site whilst her partner Lili Bayles, who attempted to calm Widders down during her panic attack, was allegedly thrown to the ground by a NSW police officer.
The pair were driving in the Sydney suburb last Thursday as Widders, 19, began to have an anxiety attack. Widders got out of the car for some air, when it’s alleged two police officers approached her and asked what she was doing.
Speaking to triple j’s Hack on Tuesday, Widders said the officers questioned what she was doing before allegedly grabbing her throat and slamming her into the gate.
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it … you see this stuff happen to my family members and on TV, [but] you never think you would be a victim of police brutality,” she said.
NSW Police have said that Widders was unable to produce identification. Whilst trying to confirm her identity, police alleged Widders spat at them and attempted to flee, resulting in her restraint.
Bayles’ mother, Yarraka Bayles, has since blasted NSW Police regarding the treatment of the pair and called for consequences.
“My daughter was only trying to help her partner when NSW Police officers laid their hands on her and threw her to the ground by her collar. She was simply assisting her partner [to] manage her anxiety attack and did nothing to be treated so appallingly,” Bayles said.
Bayles said the footage shows a distressed Widders in need of support.
“That’s what my daughter was doing when NSW Police escalated the situation by using force against a person who was not resisting arrest,” she said.
“Even the bystanders who filmed the incident were repeatedly telling NSW Police officers to use de-escalation techniques to resolve the situation.
“Any person who looks at that footage would see that there was absolutely no basis for using force against my daughter and her partner.”
Bayles is now being represented by the National Justice Project, who have noted this is yet another example of the need for systemic reforms in NSW Police to stop the over-policing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
NSW Police arrested an Aboriginal teen who was having an anxiety attack on a Sydney street.
In this footage you can see police dragging the woman’s partner who was trying to comfort her. Experts say this is the wrong response.
— Avani Dias (@AvaniDias) March 30, 2021
George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor and Director of the National Justice Project, says this footage comes just days before the 30th anniversary of the 1991 Royal Commission into First Nations Deaths in Custody.
“Recommendation 133(a) of the Royal Commission called for police to undertake training to know when someone is in distress from their presence. As with the whole Royal Commission report, this recommendation has been ignored for 30 years,” said Newhouse.
“What this video footage shows is that police officers should not be first responders to mental health crises. Instead of receiving compassionate care and medical attention, these two young women were handcuffed, thrown aside, arrested, and searched.”
The National Justice Project are calling on the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) and the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate the circumstances of the event.
“The women did nothing wrong and in our opinion the officers’ conduct should be reviewed to determine whether a crime has been committed,” said Newhouse.
By Rachael Knowles