NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has said he is still waiting on the results of an analysis of a substance he described as a ‘chemical’ that he alleges was thrown at officers by ‘Free In the NT’ rally attendees earlier this month, during a confrontation where police used capsicum spray.
Police had set up a roadblock at the East Point and Goyder roads intersection in Fannie Bay to stop a Free in the NT protester car convoy heading into the city on Saturday, November 6. The police were checking vaccination certificates due to the COVID-19 lockout in effect in Darwin at the time.
Instead, the protesters parked their cars in the Bundilla Beach area (formerly Vesteys Reserve) and began walking before encountering police who tried to stop them on the footpath near Darwin High School.
A scuffle broke out between officers and protesters with both sides making claims of wrongdoing by the other side, with video showing the NT Police used capsicum spray.
The next day, Superintendent Daniel Shean said in a statement seven people had been arrested at the scene and charged with offences including: aggravated assault, assault on police, riotous behaviour and failing to abide by the Chief Health Officer’s directions.
Another two men were arrested Saturday evening after they turned themselves in at the Darwin Police Station.
Free in the NT co-founder Kara Hoppo said the organiser’s were not aware of any substance other than water that was thrown at police officers.
“We actually asked around after the allegation was made because we’d rather be sure than be sorry,” she said.
“We thought it would come back as H2o, chlorine or fluoride.
“They allegedly sent it off days after it happened. This is not an express forensics test.”
At the time Mr Chalker vowed to find the people who allegedly threw the substance and by November 9, the NT News had reported the substance had been sent interstate for testing.
“To the individuals that threw liquid at the police officers … we’re coming for you,” Mr Chalker told the paper at the time.
“We’ll forensically analyse what [the liquid] was … The members who were affected felt it was particularly hot and that it also had a bitter taste. It entered the mouths of a number of our officers and had an immediate effect of burning.”
NT Police Association boss Paul McCue alleged protesters threw rocks at officers and said two officers were left with a “burning sensation” from the mystery chemicals.
Mr Chalker was asked about the chemical testing at a COVID-19 update press conference on Tuesday morning and confirmed it had been sent to a Victorian lab but did not say exactly when that was. He said the results of the tests have still not been returned.
“They have sent if for further forensic analysis, I’m still waiting for the update on that,” he said.
“But my understanding is the initial analysis required further [testing] and that’s why it’s been extended in the period of time.”
He said he did not have a time frame for when the results would be back and did not say if they would be made public when they were returned.