At 2am on the morning of Sunday, August 7, 1994, forty armed police raided a regular party event at Melbourne’s members-only Commerce Club. During the Tasty raid, the cops conducted strip and cavity searches on 463 people. Victorian police initially defended the raid as ‘normal’ despite finding insufficient evidence to secure a single conviction.
“There was absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that this visit had anything to do with the gay or lesbian community of Melbourne,” a Police Superintendent told a subsequent press conference. (See the video clip below.)
“It was just a normal police operation.”
Perhaps then police conducted similar operations at Bowls clubs, Bingo nights, RSL reunions or Bikie bashes?
The Tasty raid was a one-off targeting mainly young queer people enjoying a night out.
Nothing normal about it.
Hands against the wall
The raid began with the music suddenly stopping and the ugly lights coming on early. Police began barking orders through a megaphone.
“Stand we you are. Don’t move. Don’t talk. Hands on your head. If you’re near a wall, face the wall. Hands against the wall!”
Patrons remained like that for up to half an hour. Anyone whose hands slipped or who asked to use the toilets copped a mouthful of abuse, the word ‘f_ggot’ thrown around with not-gay abandon.
But eventually, all 463 people did go to the toilets.
Where they were strip and cavity searched, some with up to 10 other patrons watching.
This took place over three hours with the hostages of the Victorian Police unable to leave or contact loved ones.
Large quantities of drugs
Police later told the media they recovered large quantities of drugs including amphetamines and heroin during the raid.
Umm… What’s the word I’m looking for?
Only two drug-related arrests resulted from the raid and police later dropped even those charges for lack of evidence.
Why the mention of heroin? It’s hardly a party drug or the drug of choice for young inner-city clubbers?
No. But in 1994, heroin remained the big boogeyman of drugs in the mind of the general public. Police spin merchants threw it in to justify the Tasty raid in the minds of suburban television viewers.
Tasty raid consequences
A public outcry against the raid began almost immediately. Prominent Victorians including Premier Jeff Kennett criticised the operation.
As one would expect, lots of excuses ensued. The cops claimed they organised the operation following anonymous tip-offs. Yeah, right. We see you.
A subsequent class action resulted in a payout of about $6 million.
Twenty years later, the Victorian police apologised. None of the participating police attended the apology despite an invitation to do so.
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