Cop punched, Hockey flees Vic uni protest

Organisers of yesterday’s student protest in Melbourne have pledged to continue their fight against cuts to university funding despite it ending in five arrests and a police officer punched in the face.

One of the rally organisers Sarah Garnham said on her Facebook page that police brutality would not intimidate the group.

“We are only getting started and today was the memorable and eventful beginning of the student campaign against Abbott and Pynes (sic) sham inquiry into higher education.

“The victorian education action network is meeting next Wednesday at 4pm to discuss the next important steps in the campaign.”

The protest yesterday also saw Treasurer Joe Hockey needing police protection from the angry, surging crowd.

About 100 university students were taking part in the National Union of Students’ demonstration outside parliament house, protesting against federal government cuts to higher education.

But the large group was met by uniformed police and officers on horseback as they made their way down Bourke Street in the CBD.

Mr Hockey was caught up in the rally when protesters tried to confront him near state parliament, but his security team and police held back the crowd.

“They must have thought I was a Labor politician because it was the Labor party that cut university funding,” he later told reporters.

Police say five people were arrested as some protesters began throwing shoes and chalk outside the Liberal Party headquarters.

Protesters also burned items in the street.

A police spokeswoman said several officers were attacked by the group and one of them had to be taken to hospital with minor injuries.

“It’s alleged several police members were assaulted during the incident, including one member who was allegedly punched to the face by a protester,” she said.

But organisers, Ms Garnham, says students were peaceful and it was the police who were violent.

She said two people were initially arrested – and one of them was unconscious at the time.

“The first I saw of her she is being dragged out, not resisting at all,” Ms Garnham told AAP.

“No one in the protest was violent. There was absolutely no violence whatsoever apart from the Victorian police who moved in on us.”

She said protesters tried to attend a police station to make a brutality complaint, but police wouldn’t let them go inside.

More members of the protest group were then arrested, she said.

The protest site has been cleared but is still being watched by officers.

Police later released a man and woman without charge, but four others were bailed on a range of alleged offences.

A 21-year-old Geelong West man was charged with recklessly causing injury, a 30-year-old Preston woman was charged with discharging a missile and assaulting a police officer, a 27-year-old Preston man was charged with hindering or resisting police and discharging a missile and a 22-year-old Thornbury man was charged with resisting police.

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