Paul McDermott

About Paul McDermott

Paul McDermott is, without doubt, one of the most successful and popular performing artists Australia has ever produced. With a career spanning nearly 40 years he has remained at the forefront of the Australian entertainment industry. In this time Paul has proved to be one of the most versatile entertainers and artists in Australian history. His career spans writing and presenting national radio and television programs. In the comedy arena he has performed sell out shows in Melbourne, Adelaide, Montreal and Edinburgh to both public and critical acclaim. In recent years Paul has distinguished himself in the arena of film. He is also an accomplished visual artist.

Police violence and ignored celebrity: Musings on a march for the planet gone awry

As the police met the those striking for the planet, I saw it turn violent, and felt the gallantry of humble celebrity ignored. 

 

 

The Global Strike 4 Climate Rally was incredible. Greta Thunberg, chastised by old white men across the planet foaming at the mouth with indignation, was responsible for a global movement engaging children and concerned people of all ages.

Greta, attacked for her autism, her parents (and for travelling a long distance by boat and not cleaning the ocean as she went) remained resilient and powerful even as she was trolled by the American President.  Her message was simple, “listen to the scientists.”

I attended the Sydney rally and the excitement was infectious.  When the march commenced I found myself near the front of the pack.

We’d only walked a city block, and were on Macquarie approaching St James Road, when there was a skirmish beside us on the pavement. I caught sight of five or six police officers moving quickly and aggressively around the outer edge of the march on the right-hand side.

I followed their eyes as a young man plunged into the crowd. He was wearing a short-sleeved red shirt and carrying a green Woolies’ bag. I couldn’t tell if there was anything in the bag but the way the kid was clutching it made it significant in my head (my friend later said he thought it was a bomb).

Agitated, clearly frightened, ducking and weaving through the marchers to evade police the boy threw the bag at one of the cops. I was near the epicentre of the madness and noticed some people were totally oblivious to what was happening while others were starting to look frightened. 

Then it happened.

On my right, a large officer, a big unit, wearing blue coveralls and ‘fuck-off’ sunglasses (I’m not sure if they’re standard police issue) barged into the march. 

Intensely fixated on grabbing that young fella, he lacked any awareness of the children and others around him.

Now, I don’t know what the boy had done and I’m not defending him or his use of the crowd as human shields but you could see he was panicked. I am wondering if the response was justified. 

 

The cop grabbed at the kid who ducked away. He chased him, they wrestled, the cop’s back slammed into an older, shorter woman beside me. He struck her with such force she smashed, face first, into the road. I don’t think she even had time to break her fall with her hands.

 

The cop grabbed at the kid who ducked away. He chased him, they wrestled, the cop’s back slammed into an older, shorter woman beside me. He struck her with such force she smashed, face first, into the road. I don’t think she even had time to break her fall with her hands. 

The next thing I knew I was standing above her my feet either side of her body. I bent down and asked if she was OK. She replied but I couldn’t make out the words as the brawlers, cop and kid, headed back towards us threatening to trample her. 

The battle moved around us, violent and swift. More cops piled on and red shirt was subdued. It took forever and no time at all. As the adrenaline ebbed I saw only terrified faces: a mother held her daughter, tears streaming down the little girl’s face, cowering beside a parked car. Fear was everywhere. I lost track of the woman who hit the turf. In the confusion, she was lifted from the ground and bundled into other arms.  

 

The author wears a K-mart flannel, teamed with a stylish tan Coach saddle bag, blue 511 Levis and black Think Tank shoes (out of shot).

 

My brief heroics were over.  

But I did think, selfishly, this unselfish act would be caught on dozens of iPhones. 

And by extension – the failing third act of my life would be resurrected by social media and I’d become a viral sensation. I’d be the antidote to the other old white guys: here was an elderly hero who sought to protect and not denigrate. Here was the type of chap you’d want beside you in a foxhole.*

In the days after the march, I was deafened by the media silence. No one rang. There was no pat on the back.  

Then hope emerged. Photos of the incident came out in the Daily Mail.

Old media consuming new media creating a feedback loop of adoration and praise for the gallant act of your man here. 

For there in the midst of chaos, in the eye of the storm – Me! 

Surely now the keen-eyed purveyors of news would recognise the robust stance, the distinguished silver-grey of my once famous mane.  Someone would identify that familiar profile or the body language that spoke of years of success at the forefront of the entertainment industry. 

Nup. Not a sausage.

Thus, I am forced, reluctantly, to blow my own trumpet.  

And because I want to find out what happened.

Red shirt was arrested, according to the Daily Mail, but I still wonder what his offense was. Was such overwhelming aggression a suitable response on the part of the police? If anyone knows can they tell me?

And the woman, whose name I never learned and sought to protect, I wonder if she was OK. I’d like to meet her. Can anyone help?

And I wonder too, if she knows one of the greats of the Australian TV industry, a comedy superstar, with the voice of the Meadowlark and humble as a dung beetle, was the first to her side in her moment of need. Surely that’s something to tell the kids. 

***

*for the younger people who may be reading this (if Fortnite has crashed) a foxhole isn’t a hole where a fox lives but a term used to define heroic actions after the Great War.**

**For the young folk again – The Great War wasn’t in fact a ‘great’ war, it was horrific on a scale previously unimaginable. Thus here ‘Great’ means ‘momentous, absolute, immense, enormous’ not ‘good’ or ‘groovy.’

 

 

   

 

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