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Armed police interrupt funeral while enforcing social distancing rules

Armed police interrupt funeral while enforcing social distancing rules

A Melbourne woman said she was “inconsolable” after uniformed police officers carrying guns interrupted her father’s funeral over the Easter long weekend to enforce social distancing rules.

Helen Kolovos said she was left feeling “heartbroken” after two police officers arrived at the church during her father’s funeral on Saturday and began counting the number of people in attendance as the coffin was carried down the aisle.

Funerals have been limited to a maximum of 10 people under the rules announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in late March.

“Being from a Greek family it was already mission impossible to do that, but we did, we literally had to pick and choose our own family and say you can come, you can’t come,” Kolovos told the Guardian.

She said the two officers entered the church at the end of the service as her father’s coffin was being carried out.

“It was just totally disrespectful, to carry a gun in a Greek church, it’s totally against our religion,” Kolovos said.

“But the way they came in, they didn’t bow their heads or anything. They just started speaking to some of the people who were working in the church and taking notes as we’re carrying out my dad.

“Just pause what you’re doing for one moment, bow your head, just give that man a little shred of respect. I was inconsolable. That whole moment of farewelling my dad, that moment was taken away from me.”

Kolovos’ daughter Benita said the two officers were watching “every move” of the 10 attendees, who were separated into individual pews.

“I understand social distancing is imperative to keeping everyone safe but surely there has to be a better way of enforcing it? Couldn’t officers just watch from their cars?” she wrote on Twitter.

“Couldn’t they have worn plain clothes? Or taken their vests and guns off? Or simply paid some respect to the dead?”

The complaint emerged as more Victorians reported “concerning police interactions” in the state. More than 400 people were fined over the Easter weekend, with examples of breaches including eight people having a party in St Kilda.

In one of the complaints submitted to the new COVID-19 Policing in Australia website, a mother in Eltham said she was followed by a police car while she was driving to her son’s grave.

“I felt intimidated by the obvious stalking by police. This behaviour could only be described as harassment,” she said.