Police violence rises as officers violate their rights
Some Australian police have taken unnecessary violence too far as an act of intimidation against protesters, writes Tom Tanuki.
Warning: this article contains strong language. The reader’s discretion is advised.
APART FROM Land forces Expo in Brisbane this week, a policeman flashed a “Okay“ hand waving to a protester. We all now know what it is means, so let’s not get lost again in decoding the evidence of bleeding. I prefer that we talk about what he actually does in this context: he acts as a declaration of hostility towards leftist protesters. It goes hand in hand with a lot of real violence; of course we have seen again no more of that to the Land Forces. The truth is, the police will always enact as much violence as the state electorate allows them to.
I have had the opportunity to see Australian police crack down and brutalize protest actions all along the east coast during my years of activism. I tasted excess pepper spray in Melbourne, got a travel order to Sydney just for having opinions, and watched oddly Puritan cops in Brisbane arrest people for swearing. I saw endless police violence against comrades.
The conclusion I drew from this is that the Australian police must love this. They love to beat, spray and detain young protesters whenever they get the chance. At the very least, it’s in their institutional blood, as a repressive force sent to defend capital. And I’ve rarely seen cops get more excited about their hobby than when they’re employed to defend a conference with CEOs.
This week they defended the Ground Forces Expo. At the Land Forces, arms dealers come together to shake hands with ministers, ADF and warmongers from around the world. It’s civilians in war-torn states paying the price for handshake events like this – civilians victims in wartime are between 50 and 90 percent. The Land Forces are pretty ludicrous, if you think about it with your “reasonable human being” hat. Therefore Disrupt ground forces was organized, in which reasonable human beings engaged in using nonviolent resistance strategies in an attempt to end the event.
At Disrupt Land Forces there was music, demonstrations and workshops. People were standing outside shouting warmongers as they entered. Some legends have entered the Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Center, jumped aboard a chariot and we locked ourselves in. A hero jumped to the top that of Christopher Pyne car as he drove inside.
To defend warmongers and CEOs from reasonable human beings with placards, the Queensland Police have gone wild. Dropping people to the ground, hiding their badges, dropping phones filming them. They pushed around a 12 year old girl because international arms traffickers need protection from a little girl. They also went on a rampage with arrests for “public nuisance”, which actually means name calling and noise. (Militant legal organization Ready for action Queensland posted a declaration listing other acts of police violence.)
Someone was seen handcuffed and taken away by Queensland Police for shouting the word ‘dogs’. Someone else said “warlord scum” and got arrested for it. A protester was heard repeating various words with the police to assess their criminality. “Can I say ‘damn’? ‘Shit’? ‘Cat’?” The answer was no to all of those words. Too criminal.
These cops are not at all interested in the charges that stand in court. The aim is to hurt, intimidate and reduce the number of reasonable human beings who protest.
It reminds me of the police’s irrational response to another disturbance: IMARC 2019, the international mining conference in Melbourne. This is where another copper made the obviously alt-right sign to the demonstrators. At IMARC, the cops posted stickers saying ‘eat cock, hippie‘. They trampled a young woman with a police horse. Hit a woman on the back of the head. Used so much pepper spray on protesters that there is talk of a class action.
The violence VicPol is allowed to use is enough to make a Queensland police officer green with envy. The Victorians allowed themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security and they sat for several election cycles to elect various governments with an often bipartisan commitment to increase police resources to fight things like invented gangs. Now they have Judge level Dredd militarization. Anyone who has stood in front of a row of 100 Robocops and armored horses in a Victorian rally can attest to this.
An organizer of Disrupt Land Forces reminded me that in Queensland, after the The Bjelke-Petersen era brutal illegalization and repression of protests, civil liberties advocates and other activists fought and obtained action to reduce police violence. the the measurements still hold, to a degree. Queensland cops are brutal, but they’re not yet allowed to be that brutal. They have less military toys than you could buy inside the ground forces. They are not yet VicPol.
Their intention in suppressing the disturbance is largely to protect the right to freedom of assembly. The way the cops see it, if the conferences for warmongers or mining parasites are legally recorded, they should be allowed to freely plan the ruin of the country in private. Fine. But I don’t remember my rights to freedom of assembly being so enthusiastically defended as a protester. My first taste of excessive VicPol pepper spray was in Coburg in May 2016, when neo-Nazis crashed to counter-protest a community event I was attending. What crime had I committed? The crime of meeting without being Gina Rinehart.
The protesters are simply seen by the police as the enemy. They would always like to be more brutal with us. But they often wait until they think they have the license for it. The violence during the disruption of IMARC in 2019 occurred immediately after the Extinction Rebellion increasingly unpopular End of the “Spring Rebellion” campaign. The police may have felt she had a popular license to do whatever she wanted. A comrade who had liaised with the police during this disturbance was led to believe that the force had received few consistent orders from above. Basically, they had been released from the chain.
We’ve seen police use COVID-19 restrictions as a license for further violence. I do not support the anti-containment movement, but I have seen the violence against them by the police. It proves the same thing: when the cops think the public will let them get away with it, they attack with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, a large part of the public will let them do it. I’ve seen unsightly people clapping online whenever people they don’t like get hurt by cops. They boldly assume that they won’t be the next target.
About that cop in Brisbane, the one who waved his hand. She was the last in a long line of police officers to do so. Not just the main policeman Travis Gray, but also one in NSW who did it at a Black Lives Matter gathering. They were all protected by their senior officers, who lied after “investigating” that the officers did not understand the political context. This is hogwash, because everyone understands the context now. Brenton Tarrant gave everyone all the context they would need when he flashed that sign in court after the Christchurch Massacre.
So we’ve been convincing people in the alt-right background for a long time and I’d rather focus on what these hand signs are showing. They declare open hostilities. Enmity between the police and the people on their way. The hand signs occur at the same time as the brutality. It is the police who openly declare their intention: to unleash terrible violence against the demonstrators.
What we are supposed to do as a population is to speak out against this violence and limit the power of the police to continue to spread it. Queensland Police should not be allowed by the people of Queensland to beat, arrest and detain reasonable human beings for uttering foul words. VicPol should not be allowed by the Victorians to hit people and drown them in military grade pepper spray. You should never allow this in your state.
Tom Tanuki is an online satirist, social justice commentator, writer, and comedian. He has worked in anti-racist political comedy, notably through his satirical group the Million Flag Patriots and his anti-racist group. Yelling at racist dogs (COURT). You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_tanuki.
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