By ALEC SMART
A Victorian police officer, who was accused of making a racist hand gesture while policing anti-mining protests during the recent International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne, has been identified as a supporter of white supremacist groups.
Senior Constable Travis Gray (who uses ‘Gravis Tray’ as his Facebook pseudonym) – made the universally-recognised ‘okay’ hand signal to a photographer, which, when published, led to speculation across social media (Facebook and Twitter) that Gray was displaying a fascist symbol.
American white supremacists have appropriated the ‘ok’ symbol in recent times – initially done as a prank to irritate their opponents – stating the ‘O’ formed by the thumb and forefinger is more like a ‘P’, and the three raised fingers a ‘W’: ergo WP = White Power.
Many who viewed the photo (republished above) were highly sceptical, this reporter included, and Victoria Police defended their officer in a public statement, a copy of which was sent to City Hub: “Victoria Police is aware of the ongoing commentary about a police officer who made a hand gesture at the protest earlier this week and previous posts on his social media page. In relation to the hand gesture, we have reviewed body worn camera footage of the incident and it’s inconclusive. The footage does not capture both sides of the interaction and is at times obscured by structures and people. We have spoken extensively to the officer in question and he has advised the hand gesture was simply the ‘are you ok’ sign directed at two protestors who looked distressed.”
However, the police officer has since been identified via his Facebook profile as having strong sympathies with far-right and racist ideologies, through symbols and postings. Gray’s Facebook profile picture also features ‘Wojak’ (Polish for ‘warrior’, although ‘worrier’ might be more appropriate, given his gloomy expression), a simple drawing of a bald man that was originally used to express empathy on internet memes but has latterly been associated with the American alt-right.
Gray’s Facebook page is now suspended, presumably by the officer himself, but the internet has a life of its own and those profile images of him and the far-right symbols he used, coupled with public outrage that Victoria Police employ a white supremacist, are gaining momentum. This is especially prevalent on Twitter website, where the allegation that Travis Gray is a fascist is currently trending as the number one retweet in Victoria.
City Hub approached Victoria Police for a comment and received the following statement: “In regards to his social media page, we are aware of a small number of posts which include inappropriate memes. Under no circumstances are these posts reflective of the values of Victoria Police. The officer has been spoken to about these posts and, although they were made more than 12 months ago, he is aware of our extreme disappointment.
“While officers are entitled to have personal social media accounts, we do not want or expect them to be including content which may offend members of the community. Victoria Police is currently assessing the material to see if any further action is required.”
Video footage has also surfaced that appears to show a cap and sunglasses-wearing Victoria Police officer – who looks remarkably like Gray – punching a mauve-haired female protestor in the back of the head with a powerful left hook during the aforementioned environmentalist anti-mining protests in Melbourne. The video has over 14,300 views and 160+ retweets.
Victoria Police didn’t respond to City Hub’s request for clarification on whether it was Gray filmed punching the woman, nor whether he would face fresh disciplinary action.
Not a sticker for the rules
Senior Constable Travis Gray is the second officer Victoria Police have had to publicly defend after several days of criticism over their alleged heavy-handed policing of the anti-mining protests. Another officer is facing disciplinary action after a photograph was circulated, again through social media, of him wearing a white circular sticker on his body camera with the handwritten words: “EAD Hippy”.
‘EAD’ is a common acronym for the insult ‘Eat a dick’.
“The community can be reassured this is not the type of behaviour we expect from our officers and we are extremely disappointed by the situation,” Victoria Police said. “This behaviour detracts from what was otherwise a professionally conducted operation and tarnishes the reputation of all of our officers.
“Victoria Police will be investigating the matter further with involvement from Professional Standards Command and disciplinary action will be considered as part of this.”
The transitory and often unruly demonstrations outside the sixth annual IMARC, which ran from 28-31 October, featured environmentalists blockading the entrance to the Melbourne Convention Centre in South Wharf, including several who glued their hands to the carpark entry driveway.
Up to 7,000 delegates from 100 countries attended, many heckled on arrival by the protestors, and police claim some were ‘spat on’, a charge denied by the protestors. Over 100 arrests were made during the four days of demonstrations, including a woman who was hospitalised with both her legs broken after she was trampled by a police horse, and was subsequently charged with Assaulting a Police Horse.
Victoria Police dismissed reports that journalists and film crews had been shoved and blasted with pepper spray while police were clearing the blockades, which a police spokesperson claim they deserved, as they were “not following instructions by members of Victoria Police”.
“Victoria Police believes an appropriate amount of force was used …”
Video footage alleging Senior Constable Travis Gray (in cap and sunglasses) is recorded punching a mauve-haired woman in the back of the head: