Protestors demonstrating against Australia’s immigration laws clashed with police outside the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, amid criticism authorities were clamping down on people’s right to protest.

However South Australian police have defended the actions of the officers, citing a restricted air space around Baxter as the reason why protesters could not release balloons and fly kites.

A total of 16 demonstrators were arrested in the three-day long protest.

Nine people were arrested on Sunday as some protesters came to blows with officers in riot gear from South Australia’s elite Star Force police unit.

The protesters had moved to within 200 metres of the centre when the police charged on three separate occasions – once to pop balloons and twice to arrest people trying to fly kites.

As the police sought to arrest the kite-flyers, a separate group of protesters closer to the main entrance tried to breach an outer fence by using a grappling hook.

The arrest of the four protesters with the grappling hook sparked the largest fight which lasted for about 10 minutes.

“Police acted with a lot of restraint for a long time,” claimed South Australian Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Burns.

The protesters were repeatedly warned they were violating restricted airspace.

“They played a game of brinkmanship and provocation by continuing to fly kites after numerous requests not to,” he said.

“We’ve got a helicopter flying around and there’s no way we want a helicopter brought down by a kite or something similar being sucked up into an air intake.”

But Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, says the police reaction was over the top.

“One of the worst displayed of police brutality I think I’ve seen,” he said.

Almost all of the 450 protesters who converged on Baxter over Easter have now gone home.

They claim the weekend was a success, with their main aims fulfilled.

They brought media attention to Baxter and succeeded in making themselves heard to the detainees inside.

A 90-strong contingent from Perth waited until after midnight, leaving after five West Australians arrested on Sunday were released from jail.

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