Public Forum on Anti-terror legislation and the G20 arrests

Report from ORGASN/CRD solidarity meeting

It was a big turnout – I counted a few over 70 people. Good mix of ages.

Anita from ORGASN gave a fantastic speech encompassing the history of the G20 as it developed from the G7. She reiterated the ridiculousness of the claim to representation of the G20 (cos governments don’t represent the populace) and defended the attacks on the police van as an important step in confronting the fear that people have over the police, whose role is to enforce submission to capitalist social and economic relations. Anita invited people to be part of court solidarity actions and to join us in calling for the charges to be dropped.

Marcus Banks from Austudy 5 talked about the history of diverse, militant actions in the lead-up to the Austudy 5 cases in 1992. From the AIDEX Arms Fair in 1991 (3 day demonstration involving 3,000 people, including students, the Food Preservers Union, Domestic Violence and Incest Survivor activists) at which the Defence Minister Robert Ray was forced to cancel his speech because of the tripods, demonstrations, etc. The Arms Fair organisers actually asked the government to declare a state of emergency, and activists were accused of bizarre things like hurling oranges with syringes stuck in them at police, and covering themselves in shit. The Anti-Bush (snr) demos in early 1992 followed.

Marcus put the Austudy demonstrations in the context of the ALP/Keating neo-liberal assault, and the Gulf War. He gave an entertaining description of the Melbourne National Day of Action on March 26th, which was described as a”riot” in all the dailies. 4 people were de-arrested from a police van which was surrounded, rocked, graffitied and had its tyres let down. Those in the van were released. The day before the next action, 5 members of the ISO were raided and charged with unlawful assembly, releasing people from police custody and a number of other charges. These raids were co-ordinated with the media for maximum negative exposure. Marcus passed around a newspaper article in which the police declared the establishment of a new police unit to destroy the ISO. Marcus talked about the support he got from his trade union because he had gone to the demos in his role as delegate. Police claimed that they arrested the ISO activists because they couldn’t find the people from the police van – one of these, an NUS Education officer, issued press releases informing the cops that he’d been in the van. He wasn’t arrested. At the trial by jury that eventually ensued, a deal was struck by which all charges would be dropped except lawful assembly, and all would 5 would cop a 2 year good behaviour bond. Marcus emphasisied that the language of the defence campaign was frame in terms of rights, but rights that were political, social, economic – not framed in terms of limited legal rights.

Colin Mitchell and Lisa Farrance from CRD spoke of the victimisation of Jack Thomas and the Barwon 13. Colin emphasised that the Barwon 13 are being treated as guilty before being charged. He also talked about the truly terrifying case of Faheem Lohdi. Lohdi, a Sydney architect, was convicted in June 2006 of preparing for a terrorist act, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was convicted on the basis of downloading photos of various “sensitive sites” some of which he had worked on as an architect, of making enquiries about obtaining chemicals that the prosecution alleged could be used to make explosives [note: for those who want an example of what kind of chemicals can be hypothesised by cops desperate for a conviction as “potential explosives” please see the cases of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven – people might know the movie “In the Name of the Father” based on these cases…], and of having “radical” Islamic views – whatever that means…

Rob Stary – now, I don’t like lawyers as a general rule, but this guy was great. He publicly acknowledged the work of Civil Rights Defence in defending Jack Thomas, and gave us a bit of a reminder of the history of the persecution and then failed prosecution of Jack Thomas. Stary, Mark Taft and Lex Lasry are now being called as witnesses by the prosecution to prevent them from representing Jack.

Rob talked about the flimsy evidence against the Barwon 13. Basically, that they have been charged with being members of an unnamed terrorist organization, of which they are members (and which bears a striking resemblance to their prayer circle), then of financing and supporting this unnamed organization. And they have been charged with “possession of a thing”. A thing can be anything that is connected to “terror” a computer with naughty documents on it, for example. It seems unclear exactly what the “thing” that they possess is. But, they did go camping together, and this apparently seals the case against them. The trial judge is the same Public prosecutor in charge of pursuing the Austudy 5, Bernard Bongiorno. Rob reminded people of the crazy charges used against anti-Nike crew and the Austudy 5, and against forest activists, and that the new National Security Information Act means that people can be tried in their absence and the absence of any legal representation.

Rob talked about being swamped with DVDs and evidence and that this is a tactic to make the legal reps lives very difficult.

There will be a mention this week of the G20 case. But Rob indicated that the May 11 court appearance would only go ahead if people pleased guilty. So its not that likely….

Discussion centred around the desire to get unions on board, and the need to get together some simple info to spread around (i.e leaflets) so people can hand out the info at workplaces. People also talked about the importance of APEC organising, and the direct link between the intense pressure on Sydney arrestees in particular, and APEC organising.

At the pub, we talked about fun ideas for organising APEC proxies, for those who can't leave the state cos of bail conditions...

by K Flat Friday April 27, 2007 at 01:31 AM


Article relating to public forum at Fitzroy Town hall last night on the G20 arrests.

Last night at the Fitzroy Town Hall a crowd of around 50 people attended a public meeting organised by the G20 solidarity network and Civil Rights Defence. Speakers discussed the current political climate in regards to anti-terror legislation and the charges facing the G20 arrestees.

The first speaker, Anita Thompson, discussed the tactics used in the stop-G20 movement and the media representations of both the protests and the subsequent arrests. Forty people have now been arrested in relation to the G20 protests.

Thompson said attempts by protesters to breach police barricades were a challenge to the G20 system - a system which sustains a world order whereby "twenty percent of the world's people control eighty percent of the world wealth".

Thompson argued that protesters "embraced a diversity of tactics" and they were far from the "apolitical thugs" that the media had portrayed them to be. She stated that "capitalism is inherently violent" and the police should not be viewed as "a neutral body". Thompson further stated that the crackdown on those involved in the G20 protests should be seen as an attempt by the state to demonise protesters and delegitimise the right to demonstrate.

Marcus Banks then spoke regarding his experiences with Austudy 5. Banks said that like the G20 arrestees, these protests resulted in dawn raids by the police and a "cascade of charges". Banks said the police tended to use militant actions as "an opportunity" to arrest and repress unpopular groups and individuals. He said the affect of this was "to make people feel fearful" causing actions to become less militant. Colin Mitchell of Civil Rights Defense supported this sentiment, saying that the charges against the G20 arrestees were symptomatic of the "demonisation for political purposes" that is a characteristic of the war on terror.

Rob Starry, the lawyer who is defending some of the G20 arrestees, Jack Thomas and the Barwon 13, then gave an update on these cases and how they can be viewed in light of recent anti-terror legislation.

Starry stated that the case against Muslim convert Jack Thomas is currently being adjourned after a number of trials and retrials. Thomas is charged with possessing a falsified passport and receiving funds from a terrorist organisation. Starry also spoke of the charges against the so-called Barwon 13, who are facing multiple charges in relation to allegations that they attended terrorist training camps.

Starry said that since July 2002 the Commonwealth Government has passed forty pieces of anti-terror legislation almost unanimously. He said that the most worrying piece of legislation inducted was the National Security Information Act, which allows court proceedings to be conducted in secret, in the absence of the accused or the legal representative.

In regards to G20 arrests, Starry said that charges like riot, affray and criminal damage were "an incredible overreaction" by the police to "a bit of property damage" and they will "cost the community literally millions of dollars".

The case against the G20 protesters is listed for mention tomorrow. However, Starry told the audience rather emphatically "we're not pleading guilty."

There are meetings at Trades Hall on every second Friday (I think?) in solidarity with the G20 arrestees.

Thanks to Food not Bombs for supplying the lovely nibblies.

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