By Joe Montero
What the Public Response team did at the IMARC blockade yesterday (30 October) is a bloody disgrace. Worse, this is a dangerous precedent for Victoria and Australia, for it shows a rise in official disregard for the basic human rights of citizens.
IMARC in an international conference of mining and energy companies being held in Melbourne, and the blockade is there to highlight the role of these companies in carbon emissions, global warming and human rights violations in Australia and round the world.
This is no exaggeration. A considerable proportion of members of the Group made it obvious they were enjoying throwing their weight around. The repeated attacks on blockaders were not spontaneous. It was clear that they had been ordered from higher up, planned beforehand and coordinated. It also exposed a disturbing mind set.
The strategy of the Public response Group had not been designed to keep public order but to inflict hurt on individuals. Perhaps the best explanation is that the strategy was aimed at inciting a violent response and using this as an excuse to crack down even harder.
Some people were targeted. I know. I witnessed it and was one of the victims.
I had been standing there, not to far from where there was a charge from the police line, witnessing what was going on, when an officer approached on my right side and fired a capsicum sprayed canister just centimetres from my face. to repeat. I was only standing there, witnessing what was going on.
It really hurts. I can tell you. Especially in the eyes. And everywhere this stuff touches soon begins to burn.
I was not the only one. Even some journalists were attacked. The excuse given later was that they had been warned to get out of the way, for their safety of course, and if they remained it was their fault. The simple truth is that the Public Response Group did not want what they were doing witnessed.
The following clip is a. bout one of the attacks, where the Channel 7 crew are also targeted. Although not shown here, to members of this crew were sprayed.
Vic police pushing journo @pauldowsley7 at #IMARCBlockade @australian pic.twitter.com/fJRPBo5YDi
— Tessa Akerman (@TessaAkerman) October 30, 2019
Ultimately, it is for the top brass and the Victorian government to take responsibility for what happened. There must be an appropriate response. Those responsible for this violation of basic decency must be held into account.
If the top brass and government fail to act, they must be judged as accomplices. And it will signal that Victoria is going down the slippery slope of authoritarianism.
Making it even worse is that an agreement had been reached, where the delegates to the conference would be allowed in through one entrance, and in return, the police would not use the violent methods of the previous day. The agreement was soon violated by the Public Response Group.
The pattern had been set on the previous day. I wrote about it. Perhaps this was my crime.
The escalation was aided and abetted by sections of the media that chose to misrepresent the coordinated cruelty as violence of the protesters.
They also bear some responsibility for what happened. This part of the media failed to behave as anyone searching to the truth would, and chose instead, to be the propaganda machine to justify whatever happened.
Here is a little bit of what underscores the complicity of some of the media. They created a hoo ha about two poor officers being injured by demonstrators on the previous day. The truth is that one had suffered a self-inflicted minor injury to a finger, and it is not clear what was supposed to have been suffered by the other. What was delted from the story is The fact that two of the victims of the police attacks had been hospitalised and many others suffered injuries. Youcould hardly call this balanced reporting.
By doing what it did, this part of the media took part in censorship and the violation of human rights.
When the same media outlets ask for public support in their battle against media censorship and targeting of journalists and publishers, they should bear this in mind. The cause is just. But you can’t campaign against an injustice and participate in carrying out the same injustice and remain credible.
I was hit at around 11 in the morning. By then, many sorties to take out targets had already been carried out.
All of this was witnessed, and there is a mountain of footage and photographic images bearing this out. A steady stream of victims were taken to the nearby medics for treatment.
Around midday the biggest attack was launched on those who were near where two climbers had scaled supports to put up a banner.
Again, this was no effort to enforce the peace. It was a calculated targeting to cause hurt. Public Response Group members moved in formation, singled out individuals and bathed them in capsicum spray. Some 50 people needed medical attention.
Some individual officers did apologise over what had happened. They are not happy about the position they were put in and what had been done in their name. This dissatisfaction will fester if it is not addressed.
If the victims should choose to carry this further, no one should be surprised. Nor should they be surprised if other concerned Australians start to speak out.
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