Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

So much for the predictions of violence during APEC; despite constant official warnings the worst most protesters could have delivered is death by laughing. NSW Premier Morris Iemma summed it up with the fateful words: Mission Accomplished!

I can report just one real incident over the whole exercise that anyone would feel unwarranted violence. Four men and a woman spent Saturday night behind bars and faced court where the woman and one man were granted conditional bail One of the detained is accused of throwing a dart at a police officer's head.

Police behaviour is another thing; one photographer took 200 photographs of police without identification. The removal of identification backs up accusations of their unnecessarily heavy-handed tactics.

Eighteen people were arrested on Saturday and four were released without charge. I have asked my local state member, police are a state responsibility, for details on how many were arrested, on what charges, and how that compares with normal weekend arrests. I’m advised the questions will be put at the next sitting of State parliament.

The Violence Count

Jaywalking: An accountant had been pushed to the ground by police officers and them marched away while his "traumatised" 11-year-old son looked on. The guy was held, incommunicado, for 22 hours – for jaywalking!

Images: A freelance photographer was arrested and charged after refusing to stop filming police during the protest.
An American journalist from Getty Images was pushed to the ground and dragged by police.

In the air: A tiny Cessna 337 was buzzed and grounded by when two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets west of Sydney, flares were launched across its path as it was forced to land at a nearby airstrip. The suburban solicitor pilot was released without charge.

Wedding party? A bride's wedding car was being towed at St Marys, about a 90 minute drive from the restricted precinct. The APEC clearway traps lots of Sydneysiders. Another wedding couple had to request a police escort to their honeymoon. I see that as the wider official violence on the community.

Paula Bronstein, who works for Getty Images, is at the centre of calls for an inquiry after she was pushed to the ground by police.

"It was after we'd been taking shots of this woman being arrested and we were back on the sidewalk and the police started yelling 'get back' and started to push people back into the park.

"Then there was a push - two hands pushing me down really, really, hard and I just went back onto the sidewalk. It came out of nowhere, totally unprovoked," Bronstein said.

"I've done a lot of conflict photography and you really don't see a lot of that kind of unprovoked aggression," she added. SMH

While political events have stemmed the flow of APEC incident reports, there are wider aspects of the social violence wreaked on this country by our authoritarian masters.

Throwing the CBD and parts of Greater Sydney into lockdown for a week caused massive dislocation for many of the 3 million residents. Introducing the trappings of martial law; rooftop and helicopter snipers, identity searches among public transport users and those moving in the vicinity of secure zones, masses of armed personnel, all served to dent the perceptions of a freedom loving populous.

How compliant people are willing to remain will be interesting. Sadly there was a general air of compliance this time but I expect revelations and public discussion to come might change that situation.

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