‘I can’t breathe!’ Dramatic tower arrest

 

A man working with a youth charity was arrested outside a locked-down public housing tower in Flemington, Melbourne, just before 10pm on Tuesday night while trying to deliver food to residents.

Dramatic vision of the arrest shows police swarm the man and bring him to the ground, before he yells "I can't breathe".

The scuffle was one of many that took place after charity volunteers argued with police outside 12 Holland Court, where residents have been unable to leave their homes since Saturday.

Australasian Mercy Secondary School Association Youth Connect arrived just after 9pm with packed groceries for residents. Volunteers claim they waited around for about half an hour before deliveries were able to begin, and the fight broke out shortly after.

Counsellor Tigist Kebede filmed the incident, and is heard yelling for the man to be let go as they scuffle with police.

"Please, please don't choke him, please … he's just trying to deliver food," she says.

Moments later, three officers appear to tackle him to the ground, causing Ms Kebede's calls for peace to become more panicked and desperate.

A 28-year-old man was arrested by police outside 12 Holland Court in Flemington on Tuesday night while trying to deliver food to residents. Picture: The Coloured Therapist
A 28-year-old man was arrested by police outside 12 Holland Court in Flemington on Tuesday night while trying to deliver food to residents. Picture: The Coloured Therapist

At one point in the clip, she approaches a wall of police surrounding one of the men, to check on the man's wellbeing.

"I'm good," he says. "These guys are sick bro, I didn't touch him … why? How?"

A Victoria Police spokeswoman told NCA NewsWire there were two men involved in the fight on Tuesday night, after an unknown man allegedly became verbally aggressive towards police about 9.50pm.

She said when the first man, whose identity is unknown, approached police and he was joined by a second man - who is believed to be seen in the video.

"The unknown man ran off from the scene, while the other man, a 28-year-old from Altona North who was refusing the direction of police, was arrested," she said.

"The Altona North man has been released pending further inquiries with police still to follow up the identity of the unknown man."

Police claim the argument was not related to the delivery of food, and are investigating whether the unknown man is linked to a minor incident at the same building earlier in the week.

Everyone present outside the towers was moved on by police after the argument.

When asked how he was doing by a mental health worker on scene, he appeared confused at the officers’ physical reaction to his words. Picture: The Coloured Therapist
When asked how he was doing by a mental health worker on scene, he appeared confused at the officers’ physical reaction to his words. Picture: The Coloured Therapist

Ms Kebede shared the footage to her social media pages, telling followers it was the "scariest thing I've ever seen".

"I was so afraid this was going to be another viral black death," she wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.

"We were lucky. That's it."

Ms Kebede said it was only by luck that the man did not die during the argument, that she was present and able to de-escalate the situation, and that other volunteers were able to get him released from custody.

"We shouldn't have to rely on luck," she said.

"What happens when we're not so fortunate? Does someone die? Does someone get injured?

"Why are we exposed to violence and trauma for providing an essential service we were approved to do?"

The heavy police presence at the towers has been heavily criticised, with advocates and residents calling for more social workers and less law enforcement. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw
The heavy police presence at the towers has been heavily criticised, with advocates and residents calling for more social workers and less law enforcement. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw

The nine public housing towers in Melbourne have been the centre of controversy this week, with about 3000 residents forced to stay inside their homes as health officials go door to door testing for coronavirus.

Premier Daniel Andrews has been criticised for the heavy police presence at the towers, the slow delivery of food and an alleged lack of care shown towards residents.

The towers were locked down for a minimum of five days from Saturday so all residents could be tested before further decisions were made, though a public health order gives the government the power to keep the residents inside for up to two weeks.

NCA NewsWire has contacted Ms Kebede for further comment.

The man argued with police before he appeared to be tackled to the ground by three officers. Picture: The Coloured Therapist
The man argued with police before he appeared to be tackled to the ground by three officers. Picture: The Coloured Therapist
Nearly 3000 residents across nine public housing towers were put into ‘hard lockdown’ on Saturday as Victoria struggles under a surge of coronavirus cases. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw
Nearly 3000 residents across nine public housing towers were put into ‘hard lockdown’ on Saturday as Victoria struggles under a surge of coronavirus cases. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw

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