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APEC’s outcome: police and government demonstrate how far they can go to squash dissent in a free country

Posted by gasweek on 20 September, 2007

APEC was disrupting the lives of four million people for a week in the interests, we are told, of a greater good, according to Adele Horin reported in The Australian (7/9/2007, p. 29).

Australians stripped of right to march through city: “But a protest march that may dis­rupt the city for a few hours – for the legitimate purpose of expressing dissent – is deemed unacceptable,” wrote Horin. “Welcome, George Bush, to Australia, your steadfast ally in the mission to spread freedom to the darkest corners of the globe. In his style of genial naivety Bush at his first media conference mentioned one such dark corner, Burma, where demon­strators were recently detained by the military regime. It was ‘inexcusable’, he said, ‘that people who march for freedom’ are threatened by a repressive state. In NSW the police have succeeded in strip­ping people of their right to march through the city to protest against the policies of Bush, which are conservatively estimated to have led to the deaths of more than 77,000 Iraqi civilians (or 650,000 if The Lancet medical journal is right) and 3700 American soldiers.”

Protestors consistently get it right: “It is in the interests of liberal democracies to give people the widest possible opportunity to express dissent, and to protest against a government,” wrote Horin. “Australian protesters have a dis­tinguished history of getting it right. The anti-Vietnam moratoriums, the anti-Springbok rallies, and the early anti-Iraq war marches are instances where the people were right and the government wrong. Protest marches disrupt the traffic, and some people get out of hand. But the right of citizens to demonstrate their anger with government policy is a feature that distinguishes Australia from Burma, or from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

Greens defeat intimidation: “Police told the judge they intended to put a fence – another one – near Mar­tin Place as permitted under the new APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007, and it would present a danger to public safety if the march ended at this new fence. The judge had to agree,” Horin wrote. “Not content with targeting the Stop Bush Coalition, the police also wrote to the Greens, threatening to take them to court if they persisted in holding an event with speeches and street theatre at Martin Place. If people can eat their lunch there (it is in the designated ‘security’, but not the ‘restricted’ zone), people should have the right to make a political statement in a public place. The Greens held their line, and this time the intimidation didn’t work; the police backed down.”

Outcome predicted: “What will we get for the $330 million APEC bill?” asked Horin. “No significant progress on cli­mate change, fair trade or the elimination of poverty. But the police and government will have demonstrated just how far they can go in a free country to squash the legitimate expression of dissent.”

The Australian, 7/9/2007, p. 29


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