Hundreds of protesters, many wearing traditional keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags, gathered at the shipping terminal on Tuesday night to oppose the arrival of a container ship owned by an Israeli company and to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The gathering began peacefully but video shot later in the night by protesters and supplied to 9News shows scuffles between police and some of those gathered.
At one stage, a pram with a small child was carried over the heads of the activists as police on horseback appeared to be moving towards the crowd to move them on.
Officers were seen pinning at least one protester to the ground and pulling seated activists to their feet and leading them away.
Police said 23 people were arrested following an unauthorised gathering.
Benjamin, who didn’t give his last name, told 9News the officers’ actions were “disgraceful” and “they should absolutely be ashamed”.
“Things started getting a little bit rough,” he said.
“The cops started trying to move people by dragging them.
“They mostly arrested the organisers up the front who were not giving any ground.
“They started kettling everyone, started dragging people off, manhandling people, very heavy handed, very rough, very unnecessary.
“It turned nasty pretty quickly.”
Kettling involves officers forming lines around a crowd to push them into certain areas.
A police spokesperson did not respond to a question about the protesters’ accusations.
“A police operation has now concluded on Foreshore Road, Port Botany, following an unauthorised gathering,” they said
“Police arrested 23 people and they were taken to number of different police stations where they are assisting police with their inquiries.
Isabella, who also didn’t give her last name, said the protesters were there to promote peace and defend the rights of innocent Palestinians.
“We came here peacefully. We didn’t push anyone. We didn’t act violently. We didn’t do anything wrong to anyone,” she told 9News.
“We came here peacefully and marched down peacefully.
“As we’re marching, we were met down there by more police, probably, then there were protesters.”
The Palestine Justice Movement Sydney organised the gathering as part of a string of actions against ships operated by ZIM — Israel’s largest container shipping carrier — and also linked to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Last month, ZIM CEO Eli Glickman said its ships’ first priority would be “to transfer cargo from anywhere in the world to Israel according to the requirements and needs of the Ministry of Defence and the government of Israel”.
“As Australians we cannot allow business as usual to continue at our ports while Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza and committing the crime of apartheid against my people,” Palestine Justice Movement Sydney spokesperson Ahmed Abadla said.
“ZIM has Palestinian blood on its hands, just as much as every Australian government official who refuses to support a complete ceasefire in Gaza does.”
ZIM is yet to respond to a request for comment.
Israel stresses its right to self-defence and has defended its attacks on Gaza since October 7 as necessary to wipe out Hamas, arguing a ceasefire would give the militant group the chance to regroup.
Calls for Australian politicians to take a harder line on Israel’s bombardment, triggered when militant group Hamas’ killed more than 1200 people and took 240 hostage, have grown as the death toll and situation in the occupied Palestinian territory have deteriorated.
Earlier this month Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she was “deeply concerned by the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza”.
“What I would say is we all want to take the next steps towards a ceasefire, but it cannot be one‑sided,” she told the ABC’s Insiders.
“Hamas still holds hostages, Hamas is still attacking Israel.”
More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank. Officials there say another 4000 are missing.
Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have negotiated for weeks over a hostage release that would be paired with a temporary cease-fire and the entry of more aid.
– Reported with Associated Press