In November 2006, people took to the streets of Melbourne to confront the G20, a meeting of the
world’s most powerful finance ministers whose policies perpetrate suffering and violence in countless communities around the world every day. Since that protest, Victorian and Federal police have carried out a vast operation of surveillance and arrests, raiding houses at dawn and slapping protestors with ludicrous charges and repressive bail conditions. This is a
campaign of intimidation and part of an attempt to criminalise protest. The legal process for those charged after the G20 protests moves slowly on. There have been a few developments this month.
Akin Sari sentenced
Akin Sari was sentenced to 28 months gaol with a minimum non-parole period of 14 months. Judge Punshon also ordered him to pay $8 310 for damaged to a police van.
Akin pleaded guilty to 9 charges including riot, assault and aggravated burglary. Amongst the general media hysteria about the G20 protests, Akin has been singled out for special
condemnation and racist vilification. Arrested on November 19, the day after the street protests, he was initially denied bail for a number of weeks. Bail was eventually granted, but was revoked when he breached his reporting conditions and travelled to Sydney. He has spent roughly 7 months locked up already, so he will spend at least another 7 months behind bars.
Akin Sari has been moved to Barwon Prison. Harder for people to visit. New postal address:
Locked Bag 7, Lara VIC 3212.
Make sure you put a return name and address or it won’t be accepted.
Committal Hearing Continues
The committal hearing for the remaining G20 defendants going through adult court began on February 18. During the hearing, 10 people agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges, leaving 13 people still going through the hearing. In a committal hearing the prosecution has to prove to
the magistrate that there’s enough evidence for the charges to go to trial with some chance that people will be found guilty. Over three weeks the defence cross-examined a number of witnesses, most of whom were police officers. At the time of writing, people are still waiting for the magistrate to determine which charges will be going to trial. When she rules on this in late March a date for trial will be set.
Those who agreed to plead guilty will have their next hearing in early April. All of those who took plea bargains pleaded guilty to riot, and some individuals also pleaded guilty to other charges including criminal damage and recklessly causing serious injury. The prosecution have said that they’ll be seeking jail sentences for some people.
People from the G20 Arrestee Solidarity Network and Food not Bombs tried to make court more bearable by providing picnic lunches and money from fundraisers was used to help people with travel and legal costs.
Taskforce Salver Investigation Notes
During the committal hearing the defence obtained copies of many of the notes made by police about the G20 protests, including notes from ‘Taskforce Salver’, the taskforce set up to investigate G20 protestors. These notes are quite extensive, although sections are
blacked out and other bits are poorly photocopied, and they add to the information we have about how and why people were arrested. Here are some preliminary notes
on what we can learn from this information.
The notes make it clear that, from the beginning of the investigation, the police were targeting
individuals they had already identified as activists and therefore believed were ‘leaders.’ As well as going after individuals they had picked out from the start, they also attended protests in both Melbourne and Sydney in the hope of identifying people in the
crowds, and arrested people from these identifications. Police who have monitored forest
protesters, the Newtown police in Sydney and a number of universities and schools provided information to Taskforce Salver.
Activist social networks were also targeted. In January of 2001, groups of plain clothes police
carried out surveillance of a number of pubs in inner-city Melbourne. (They were given instructions that officers drinking shouldn’t drive or arrest anyone.) Police also tried to identify people by searching for the names of punk bands from patches worn to the protest. Clothing, including shoes, bags and hats, was often used in making identifications and was seized in searches as people were arrested.
Taskforce Salver worked very closely with the APEC taskforce in Sydney. As we already knew, police from the APEC squad were present at the G20 protests. They were keen to help with the Sydney arrests and exchanged information with Melbourne. In return, Taskforce Salver sent APEC police video footage of solidarity demonstrations outside the court in Melbourne.
It was the APEC taskforce who recommended that the Sydney arrests be coordinated through the Counter Terrorism unit. When a member of Taskforce Salver first talked to the Counter Terrorism unit after this suggestion, they originally refused and said it wasn’t in their charter. The APEC taskforce, who arranged logistics for the arrests, nevertheless requested their involvement. As the Counter Terrorism unit did take part in the arrests, it is clear the cops in
charge of policing APEC won their argument that these arrests and these political crimes should be dealt with by Counter Terrorism police.
Taskforce Salver also used the intensification of policing in the lead up to APEC to help their
inquiries more generally. When they released the infamous ‘persons of interest’ photos to Crimestoppers and the media, they hoped that the hype around APEC would help get them national media coverage. Indeed, the photos – which showed 24 people without indicating
what, if any, crime they were suspected of, did receive widespread attention and a number of people were identified from them or were frightened into turning themselves in.
What can we learn from all this? That talking in pubs isn’t safe. That police are worried about protesters. That when we’re trying to hide our identities we need to be more thorough. That we could be under surveillance. These are things that perhaps we should have known already but didn’t want to take seriously.
But although this is serious and frightening it isn’t the end of the world. We can learn from this, keep supporting each other and continue resisting openly. The most important thing right now is that some of our friends and comrades are awaiting sentencing or still going through the tense tedium of court – or, in the worst case, in prison.
The G20 investigations are a test for both sides. The police have thrown intense resources towards them and what they manage to get away with in these trials is going to set new limits
for what they’ll try to get away with next time. Anyone who thinks that we need to keep opening the spaces for protest and direct action needs to support the arrestees both politically and practically.
For more information about ongoing solidarityorganising, see www.afterg20.org
thanks to Mutiny Zine Chur