New arsenal of weapons for Victorian riot police

by Davey Heller, 24th March 2018

In anticipation of rising class struggle, the Victorian Labor Government has announced that its riot police will be armed with a new array of “less lethal” weaponry. The frightening wishlist of weapons include a semi-automatic pellet gun that can fire pellets containing capsicum, dye or “blunt force” pellets, flash grenades, grenades that explode rubber pellets, so called “foam batons” that fire projectiles and capsicum canisters that fire clouds of capsicum gas. These new weapons will be used  from a new hi-tech vehicle that can film and livestream to an offsite command centre.

New Victorian Police rubber bullet launcher

Similar types of “less lethal” weapons used by governments around the world result in many deaths and serious injuries annually. Just one prominent U.S. examples include Sophia Wilansky who almost lost an arm to a concussion grenade protesting the Standing Rock Pipeline.


The actions of the Andrews Labor Government represent an unprecedented escalation of U.S. style militarised policing in Australia, however it does fit into broader national trend. Riot police in Sydney last New Years Ever patrolled the streets with semi-automatics Colt M4 semiautomatic rifles.  Last year the Northern Territory sent police onto streets of Darwin armed with Night vision goggles and assault rifles supposedly to target youth crime. The Australian Federal police have utilised bean bag rounds within the network of offshore camps against imprisoned asylum seekers. LRAD sound cannons have also been purchased by the Victorian, Queensland, West Australian and Federal Police.

Riot Police in Toronto at the G20 protests in 2010. Credit: Chris Huggins Flikr (CC)

The ruling class is aware of how using these police state methods will inevitably provoke working class resistance. Police Chief Commissioner Ashton whilst justifying the use of the equipment told The Age,.” We need the community to be with us on this……It is an ugly look to see police in riot gear in a suburban street. We now have some equipment that has not been seen before that may alarm people.’’

The stated justification for deploying these weapons is a series of disturbances in the states youth prisons and a series low level clashes between anarchist “ANTIFA” protests and far right protestors over the last two years. None of public protests cited have resulted in widespread property damage or injury to the public or police. Police command instead cited a recent protest outside rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in Melbourne where no police were injured but $1500 worth of damage was done to police riot helmets as justification for the new weapons! . Perhaps more significantly at the cited protest in Melbourne in December 2017, hundreds of working class youths from a nearby public housing estated joined the middle class ANTIFA protestors in clashes with the far right and police.

This points to the real reason the ruling class is giving police these weapons. They are well aware the world is entering a period of escalating class struggle. The risk grows daily that Australia will join a U.S. led war against Nth Korea, China or even Russia. Any such world would which be deeply unpopular with working class. The global protests of 15 years ago against the Iraq War would only be taste of any future international working class movement.

Similarly the working class is beginning to breaking free of the straight jacket of unions control and anti-strike laws. The example of wildcat strike teacher sin West Virginia and other labor struggles around the world has shown that workers are beginning to fight back after a decade of suppression of wages and cuts to social services since the GFC. Workers in Australia face the same pressures as their global. counterparts.

The increased in repressive weapons given to police also reveals the reactionary role of the Andrews Labor Government. The funding for the new weapons for the riot police was announced in 2016.  An initial $7.6 million was allocated with an ongoing $35 million over five years to “improve the management of large scale or high-risk public order incidents.”

This is the government that has already massively expanded police numbers by spending 2 billion dollars to put more than three thousand more police on streets. They have also aligned themselves with the filthy corporate press led  “African Gangs” campaign, with Andrews  threatening that the “full force of law” should be unleashed against youths in response to campaign.

The Andrews Government has also responded to disturbances amongst troubled youth within youth prisons by attempting to defy a series of court findings to house youth offenders within the adult maxium security Barwon prison. Like all State Labor and Liberal Governments, the Andrews Government has also supported every reactionary increase in police powers under the phoney rubric of the “War on Terror” demanded by the Federal Liberal Government.

Footage of the same type of semi-automatic pellet gun obtained by the Victorian Police being used on protestors in Portland in 2017

Related Links

Coverage in The Age Newspaper

Analysis from Melbourne Activist Legal Support – #Notwithyou:Why more weapons for Victoria Police is a very bad idea 

Davey Heller

Davey Heller is a Trotskyist from Melbourne and long-time campaigner for Left-wing causes including anti-war, refugee rights, environmental protests and workers' struggles. He is a former secondary teacher who studied history at Monash University and currently works in the environmental field. You can follow him on Twitter at @socialist_davey

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: