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Victoria Police accuse couple who were threatened with arrest for wearing Australian flags on Australia Day of lying – but provide no evidence

Victoria Police have denied threatening to arrest a couple for wearing Australian flags near an ‘invasion day’ protest in Melbourne on January 26.

Frank Strazdins and Di Thorley last week told Sky News they were accused of “inciting a riot”, ordered to remove Australian flags from their heads, and forced out of the road as anti-Australian protesters waving Aboriginal and Palestinian flags approached.

“A police officer approached me … and said you are under arrest for inciting a riot,” Mr Strazdins told The Bolt Report.

“I said ‘What, how?!’ He said, ‘Well the flags on your head’. I said, ‘Well today is Australia Day’…and he started to ward me off the middle of the road.

“Once I started walking, I really started to stress. I felt really disappointed, I was gobsmacked as to what happened.”

More than a week later Victoria Police released an long and angry statement lashing out at media reporting on the incident and saying they “can confirm there was no arrest or threat of one, nor was the complainant told they could not wear an Australian flag” but did not provide any bodycam footage backing up their claims.

“Instead, the complainant was standing in the middle of tram tracks on Swanston Street in the direct route of a large protest group of more than 30,000 people,” police said.

“He was asked by the officer to move from the middle of the road to the side for his safety. When the male stated he did not have to move off the road, he was advised that police have the power to move people on. He then complied with the request, moved from the road and met his wife in a nearby store.

“Again, he was not told he could not wear an Australian flag nor was he told he would be arrested for it or for allegedly inciting riotous behaviour.”

Sky News host Andrew Bolt said the statement was “insulting” to the couple and called for the release of bodycam or CCTV footage.

“So he was moved on but Frank somehow made up that bit about inciting a riot, arrest, made it all up?” he said.

“And the officer just walked with Frank just to kindly warn him the crowd he was meant to be policing might pick on him? I think something did happen.”

In 2017 and 2018 Victoria Police repeatedly complained about media outlets such as the Herald Sun using the term “African gangs” and claimed multiple times that those gangs didn’t exist.

This has resulted in reduced media coverage of African or Sudanese crime ever since, even though the number of Sudanese and South Sudanese offenders rose in the two years following.

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