Greens sectarianism, Byron Bay stylee

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at optushome.com.au
Sat Nov 23 19:17:43 MST 2002


Steve Painter responds to Nick Fredman

Nick, I agree that's an inaccurate statement by Ian Cohen about the WTO
events. The protests were peaceful and the cops, as usual, and as could be
expected, committed the violence.

I found the following report by Margo Kingston of the Sydney Morning Herald
largely accurate on the events of the protests (except for a couple of
phrases, perhaps) and it covers part of the role of Greens MPs leading up to
the events and part of the role of some Labor MPs, which you may note are
contradictory.

Shove polling: copping it tough before an election
By Margo Kingston
November 14, 2002

I feel like I've been transported back to the days when it was frightening
to dissent from government policy in Queensland. The then Premier, Sir Joh
Bjelke-Petersen, banned protest marches and condoned police violence against
people who marched to protest the ban in order to win and keep conservative
voters.

It's hard to believe that a modern Labor government is blatantly using the
Sir Joh precedent more than 25 years later in what looks like a deliberate
policy to foster and politically profit from violence on the streets.

The lead-up to today's horrific injury to a journalist when mounted police
charged into protesters in the Sydney CBD is chilling.

It began, ironically enough, when Greens Upper House member Lee Rhiannon
asked this question of NSW police minister Michael Costa October 31: "Will
the Minister, as a responsible Minister, ensure that police on duty at the
protest planned against the world trade organisation to be held in Sydney
next month do not perpetrate violence against protesters, as we witnessed by
some police at the S11 Melbourne protest in 2000 and some M1 protests in
Sydney?

Will the Minister ensure that police exercise their duty of care to
protesters in such a way that protesters who infringe any law are arrested
and not brutalised by police using their horses, batons or wedge chargers?"

Costa not only refused to give such a guarantee, but called on Rhiannon to
resign for hosting - with the permission of Costa's Labor colleague, Senate
president Meredith Burgmann - a forum on civil disobedience to be held in
parliament house that Friday. Without a shred of evidence, Costa accused
Rhiannon of condoning and promoting violence on the streets.

"I believe that every member of this House, other than Lee Rhiannon and
maybe a couple of the nutters that support her on the cross benches, would
be appalled by this move by Lee Rhiannon. She speaks very sanctimoniously in
the House about things that other members of the House do, yet she is
blatantly involved in a process that could lead to violence at the WTO
meeting. It is a disgrace. She ought to resign."

Civil disobedience, as Costa would know as the former head of the NSW Labor
Council, is about using non-violent means to make a political statement.
Having witnessed the May Day blockade of the Sydney Stock exchange last
year, I can personally attest to the discipline and focus of protest
organisers to dissuade the few outlaws who sometimes hijack these events
from causing trouble.

If events were allowed to take their normal course this week the police
would have had the cooperation of protest organisers and the great bulk of
participants to arrest those with a violent agenda. The planned protest
march against the agenda of the World Trade Organisation meeting in Homebush
this week was backed by many unions, Christian social justice groups,
environmental groups and many other respectable community organisations
Costa now condemns as condoners, if not perpetrators, of violence.

Ms Rhiannon asked a supplementary question: "Minister, will you confirm
that, if any protester breaks the law at the WTO meeting in Sydney, they
will be arrested and the police will not use inappropriate and illegal
tactics?"

Costa's reply chilled me to the bone. "Let us be clear: People are coming
here to have a violent confrontation with the police. Let me say to you: The
police will be prepared and I will back the police in what they do."

The next day, Costa went to town. After getting the Daily Telegraph on the
rampage with a page one scream, Costa talked to the shock jocks, led by Alan
Jones, to kick the can even more. The police commissioner then accompanied
him to Homebush for another rave.

Create and incite hysteria, suppress peaceful dissent, and what do you get?
Perhaps exactly what you want.

At last Friday's parliament house forum, rumours began to circulate that
routine negotiations with the police to arrange a march permit for the city
to protest the WTO meeting (such permits are issued as a matter of course)
had suddenly come to a halt. Instructions from "higher up" meant there'd be
no permit, junior police started saying. Why on earth would this be so?

The march would be miles away from Homebush, where no marches were planned.
On Tuesday, the commander of security for the WTO meeting, one Dick Adams,
suddenly announced a black ban on march permits from yesterday to Saturday,
when the WTO meeting wound up.

I spoke to one of Costa's people that day. Yes, he'd heard that Adams had
just announced a ban, "but that would be an operational decision taken by
the commander - we wouldn't get involved in that". Yeah, yeah.

The Adams action was nothing short of incendiary. It meant that the only way
for dissenters to the WTO agenda to make their point to the public - a
street march - had been outlawed. He trashed fundamental civil liberties in
the state of NSW. Naturally, the WTO protest organisers decided to march
anyway.

Costa had set the stage for the violence he claimed he wanted to avoid.
Today, the inevitable result. The protest march took on enormous symbolic
importance, heightened emotions on both sides, and probably attracted the
attendance of outlaws who mightn't have bothered to turn up if the cameras
weren't guaranteed by Costa's actions to be there.

Police let the march happen, in which 1500 people took part, including
"scores of media" and "hundreds of police". That's right, hundreds. Then the
violence - by the police, not the protesters, from reports so far - and
heavy bruising inflicted by police on a reporter from The Australian.

"The only injury so far has been Patricia Karvelis, a journalist from The
Australian, who was trampled by two police horses. Witness Sally Quilter, a
57-year-old nurse, said: "Somehow she fell to the ground and these two great
big horses at the end of the line came out and charged and trampled on her.

"There were two big men on them, so that's a lot of weight. They just rushed
into the crowd. I can't believe they weren't told to. I can't believe what I
saw."

Ambulance officers treated Ms Karvelis before taking her to hospital with a
suspected fractured pelvis, which turned out to be unbroken but badly
bruised. What provoked this police action? Superintendent Glen Harrison said
there was a small element of the march "committed to provoking violence".

"Fifty or sixty of the protesters have been pushing and shoving and trying
to provoke the police and cause disruption to police and traffic," he said.
Notice he makes no allegation of protester violence. Protesters simply
provoked the police into violence. Nice one. Be careful, all NSW citizens.

The police under Michael Costa are ready to do violence if "provoked" by a
push or a shove. What a sad way to try to win an election. What dangerous
games are being played, what civil liberties are being trashed, to keep this
disreputable, cynical government in power. Pity the police on the street who
did nothing to encourage this disgusting spectacle, yet got enmeshed in it
on the orders of their superiors after their minister's orchestration.


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