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Protesting for protesting sake?

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Tracie Aylmer attended the Villawood protest yesterday. Tracie is a migration agent and solicitor who comes into regular contact with asylum seekers. In this guest post she expresses her disappointed at the behaviour of many of the protesters whose behaviour, she laments, did nothing for the cause of those in detention.

I have only been to two protests in my entire life.

The first protest was a few weeks ago – the March In March. It was so well organised, that people respected not only themselves, but others and the police. There were no arrests, even with the tens of thousands of people who marched with me.

The second was yesterday – on 5 April 2014 – at Villawood Detention Centre.

Before I go into detail in relation to my experiences of the asylum seeker protest, I think I should explain who the asylum seekers are. I am in constant contact with the Hazara community. They are peaceful, gentle and very respectful members of our community. They do not like to fight, which is why so many are tortured and/or die at the hands of the Taliban in areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. They actually refuse to fight back!

My contacts in the Hazara community saw the video (now made private) that was recorded yesterday. Their direct response, and I am quoting, is “it is not good”. They were very disappointed that so many people were behaving as they were in that video.

Due to these very lovely people, who have accepted me with open arms into their community, I respect everything they do and say. They are very gentle, and do not believe that people should be deliberately trying to become arrested in their name.

I cannot say how asylum seekers in Villawood Detention Centre would have reacted to the fact that people were arrested in their name, but if they are anything like my contacts in the Hazara community they would have felt ashamed.

Being vocal would have helped them realise that there are people outside of Villawood Detention Centre who do care for them, but ignoring police direction and going so far as to kick and punch police officers for doing their job goes above and beyond.

I believe some police officers do create ‘ultra vires’ moments. There’s little doubt of that – particularly considering why ICAC was formed.

But, the directive to move the asylum seekers came from far higher than the authority given to the police officers who were there yesterday. They obeyed orders. They did not make the orders. The buses were going to leave anyway. No matter what.

This government cannot ‘stop the boats’. That much is obvious, even if we now don’t hear about it. So what makes anyone on that day think they can ‘stop the buses’? Especially those officers that were there yesterday.

The police asked for people to move to the footpath. Considering the footpath is quite large, it sounded like a reasonable request. People could have been just as vocal on the footpath, as they were on the road. It didn’t matter where, as long as the people were vocal.

The police then said to the mothers for asylum seekers group that if people did not move onto the footpath, there would be every reason for the police to move people to the end of the street. Since the mothers were there to say goodbye to their long time friends (the asylum seekers), people should have listened to the mothers. The mothers were gentle and caring ladies, who deserved respect. They were near tears, as the connections formed were bonding. They saw the writing on the wall – the buses were going to leave anyway, and this was their last chance to say goodbye.

As it happened, no one was moved to the end of the street. Everyone stayed where they were.

People started speaking about their experiences. One of the mothers told about her experiences. Everyone was quiet and respectful for each person on the microphone. Then, a police officer wanted to talk. He was drowned out by protesters chanting the same chant over and over.

A short time later, a man came up to us and told us that people should have a right to be on the street if they wished. He said the protest was proper and people also had a right to talk. One of the mothers then asked “so why wasn’t the police officer then allowed to talk?”. We both then decided to ignore him.

Shortly after this, and after a few hours of being there, I had to leave for personal reasons. A police officer escorted me to my vehicle. He was kindly and respectful, as I showed respect. He said he was only doing his job, as told by higher authorities. I said I was only there for the asylum seekers.

I was not there at the period of time when the protesters and police clashed. I am grateful that I wasn’t. This was not what I signed up for. I wanted to show the asylum seekers I was there for them. Instead, I had a protester tell me that I was selfish. I was told that I shouldn’t be there for me. It made me wonder – who was I there for, then? Because I certainly wasn’t there for the protesters!

Protesting in order to create ugly clashes with the police does nothing for the cause. It only shows those who vote LNP what they want to hear about asylum seekers – that perhaps they should be feared after all. Showing lack of respect for the police also shows lack of respect for the asylum seekers. They would not want people being injured or arrested in their name. It would make them feel guilty.

So to all the people who showed up to protest, and were in that video kicking, screaming and punching the police, who were you actually protesting for? If the asylum seekers don’t want to see this sort of thing going on, then is it really worth being arrested? Isn’t this the sort of mob mentality that the LNP are notorious for?

Isn’t this the sort of thing that the LNP staunch supporters would want to see?

Perhaps if we all calmed down and became as respectful as the asylum seekers, then all our protests would have the same tinge as one of the most successful protests in Australia in decades – the March In March.

72 comments

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  1. pvcann

    Agree that it does the cause no good, but I wonder if we are seeing events and protests providing opportunity for a venting of frustration for a broad range of issues?

  2. Alison White

    Hmmm – while I agree with the ethos of respectful protest – there are times when the mantra of ‘just following orders’ is used to further and promote oppression. If the ordinary citizens of Germany in the late 1930’s had disobeyed immoral orders what would the future have held for those millions eventually rounded up and transported to the slaughterhouses? Hey, they may have of actually HAD a future…
    …so, I’m torn on this issue. Sometimes protests HAVE to be forceful in my opinion.

    And, quite frankly, I’m past caring what the LNP and their supporters think – nothing; logic, facts nor convincing argument gets past their shell of determined ignorance.

  3. john921fraser

    <

    Sometimes to be heard a protest must step up and "perform" for the media.

    I noticed (via the media) that most of the protesters were under 25 …. and I say good luck to them.

    If refugees do not understand why protesters are becoming more and more vocal on their behalf then it is beholding on those who work with them to explain how Australia is totally controlled by the Murdoch and Fairfax Media.

    The Vietnam war protests had to keep ramping up their protests because the Australian government just would not listen to them.

    Once again ….. good luck to those protestors there yesterday.

  4. Tracie

    John it wasn’t the vocal aspect that I had a problem with. It was the kicking and punching aspect that I – and the asylum seekers – had a problem with. They are all for being vocal. They are not for getting violent.

    We can be so much more productive if we are respectful. The police defended themselves against people deliberately going out of their way to become arrested. People leaving due to arrest means there are less people there protesting. It really isn’t beneficial to anyone.

  5. mikestasse

    They obeyed orders. They did not make the orders.

    Hitler’s henhmen said the same thing as defense for their actions…….

  6. Tony Grant

    The problem with “a uniformed life” maybe you have nothing to say or like being told…neomorts and always being used by the establishment!

  7. john921fraser

    <

    @Tracie Aylmer

    It all comes down to getting the media's attention.

    Australians don't know how many boats have been turned back.

    Australians don't know if any boats have been lost at sea.

    Australians don't know if any boats have made it to Australian territories.

    It's government secrecy aided and abetted by the MSM.

    And if the protestors do not make it onto the evening news/newspapers then Australians don't know anything about their protest.

    Once again …. good luck to the protestors.

    There should be many more doing the same thing.

  8. vivienne29

    I appreciate what Tracie has written – very much so. On the other side of the ledger the protest resulted in news/tv coverage. Without that protest we would not have seen what our government is doing. It has highlighted the trickery and sneaky way they operate today (Abbott & Co that is). So the protest achieved something good.

  9. vivienne29

    PS: to my previous. Because being nice gets you no where when it comes to politics.

  10. Inga Leonora

    There are peaceful “vigils” and then there is protest. Both have a place in democracy. And both have a place when freedom of speech and real democracy are threatened. But the idea that the policeman is somehow removed from the responsibility of choice, that he is “following orders” is the very same logic that is used to enact genocide.
    People are angry, if they want to make a scene by way of civil disobedience, and then arrest, then let them. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. When people on the same side start asking them not to rock the boat, we have a serious problem.
    I don’t think that we have to “do as the cause would” else we’d not save a single species other than ourselves. We’d only set ourselves on fire in support of Tibetan monks against Chinese occupation, or start shooting those who support the Syrian government here because that’s what a Syrian rebel would do. Preposterous!
    Seems to me that both are valid choices for the individual, that they should support and augment each other, so there is civil disobedience and peaceful solidarity for those who make those sacrifices.But for that to happen there needs to be organisation.

  11. Kaye Lee

    I think violence is always counterproductive including in this case but the media point is valid. The MiM was dismissed by the MSM with some poor taste signs being the ONLY thing being reported. It seems the only way to get media attention is to do something wrong/questionable/distasteful.

    Imagine how very different this country would be if journalism was about factual reporting and analysis rather than sensationalism.

  12. nobody special

    I disagree with your characterisation of the protesters as “protesting in order to create ugly clashes with the police.” I believe they were there for their stated reasons, to stop the removal of refugees to isolated detention centres, but I was not there (I am in a different city) and I understand that this is a common perception of protesters and don’t want to use this comment to argue or try to change your mind about that. I do have some questions and would be grateful to read your answers.

    You say “This government cannot ‘stop the boats’. That much is obvious, even if we now don’t hear about it. So what makes anyone on that day think they can ‘stop the buses’?” If I understand this correctly, you think it’s impossible to stop the detainees being moved by protesting? The reason I ask this is because comparing “stopping the buses” to “stopping the boats” is a confusing statement to me, especially coming from a refugee supporter. “Stopping the boats” is a political fiction, it’s a metaphor for stopping refugees seeking to come here, it is probably impossible because the overwhelming human need for asylum is more powerful than government deterrent policies. Stopping the boats is also something refugee supporters don’t believe the government should attempt, for legal, ethical and moral reasons. Would it be correct to say that you agree that the government is wrong to try to stop the boats? Do you also agree that the government is wrong to try to move the refugees to remote detention centres?

    I don’t agree that attempting to “stop the buses” is wrong for pragmatic reasons, I don’t think it is impossible like “stopping the boats” is impossible and I don’t think it’s wrong to try. But if you are arguing that these protests won’t stop the buses, but you do agree with me that it is worthwhile trying to stop this happening, in other words that it shouldn’t be accepted as inevitable, what do you think would be effective? What specific strategies and tactics do you advocate and why do believe they would be more effective? You say the March in March was “one of the most successful protests in Australia in decades.” What concrete effects do you think the March in March had, and what specifically was more successful about it?

    You also say “I cannot say how asylum seekers in Villawood Detention Centre would have reacted to the fact that people were arrested in their name, but if they are anything like my contacts in the Hazara community they would have felt ashamed.” If I understand this correctly, you don’t know what the refugees in Villawood think and feel about the protests, but you have some contacts who are also Hazara who have told you what they think and feel about them. If the refugees who are being removed support the protests, would that change your opinion about supporting them? As I said, I was not at this protest but the media coverage reported that “refugee activists and refugees” were protesting, and the photos/footage I saw backed that up. Are you aware that there are Hazara groups in the community who do support the protests, such as the Hazara Youth Perspectives organisation [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hazara-Youth-Perspective-Org-HYPO/111913102230525?fref=ts] and does this have any impact on your opinion?

  13. john921fraser

    <

    @Kaye Lee

    The Vietnam protests started out the same way …. non violent & peaceful protest.

    But the government did not get the message and then tried to take on the protesters.

    I see the parallels as being equal.

    Congratulations to all the people who attended the protest.

  14. Kaye Lee

    nobody special,

    My opinion about MiM is that it achieved more than many realise. It was different to other protests in that it was not about one specific issue – more a general alarm at the direction this country is taking. Whilst directed at the Coalition government, it was by no means a political rally in favour of Labor. It attracted a vast cross-section of the community. It wasn’t just residents from one area protesting about CSG in their backyard, though they were there. It wasn’t just teachers and parents protesting about education funding but they were there. It wasn’t just geeks protesting about the NBN, or social workers demanding humane treatment for refugees, or environmentalists seeking action on climate change. It was all those people and more, and I doubt they will “disappear up their own proverbials in a puff of BO and bong smoke” as Tory Shepherd quite offensively suggested.

    Every individual had a voice with their placards and t-shirts. Many people were marching for the first time. All those people have families and friends and colleagues to whom they talk. Cars bipped their horns as they drove past and people called out encouragement. If we can raise awareness, get young people involved, get more people to register or cast valid votes, shake up the apathy, get people reading beyond the MSM – then much will have been achieved. I do not think this will be the end of our marches and much was learned from the first one, not least of which was that you CAN make a difference and your vote is important.

  15. mars08

    They do not like to fight, which is why so many are tortured and/or die at the hands of the Taliban in areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. They actually refuse to fight back!

    Do that didn’t really work out well for them… did it?

    No! Not for one second am I even hinting at the NSW Police are in the same league as the Taliban. That is not my intent. But then the Australian public does not have the same culture as the Hazara. For better or worse, we have a mongrel streak

  16. Kaye Lee

    Let’s remember why this happened. That bastard Scott Morrison had these people transferred to the other side of the country the day before their court case regarding the breach of security that allowed their personal details to be made public, then denied them access to interpreters so their legal team could take instructions from them. It is a flagrant attempt to stop the judicial process. That being the case, Morrison can’t complain when people protest against this type of manipulation which is purely designed to make it harder for due legal process to take place.

    Police often call off high speed chases because of potential danger to the public. Had I been in charge I would have said, sorry, can’t move them today because it could inflame the situation. We’ll try again next week.

  17. Stephen Tardrew

    If you’re trying to get from emotional reactivity to reason then violence is no way to go. Bit of yelling is OK however physical violence puts more people off than it gathers in. We have general social sanctions against violence. Non-violent protest works. Gandhi demonstrated as much with the salt marches as did Mandela and Tutu.

  18. mars08

    The marvelous, magical thing about following orders is that the police are regularly given more oppressive laws they can use to carry out those orders. So protest and dissent of any sort becomes more and more difficult.

    Recent changes to legislation in Victoria shows, quite clearly, where this is heading…
    https://newmatilda.com/2014/01/21/victoria-goes-after-protest-and-picket-rights

  19. mars08

    Stephen… I just want to point out that the instances you cite were of colonial powers oppressing to indigenous population. In both cases the people calling for change vastly outnumbered their oppressor. And in both cases the struggle was not always non-violent.

  20. allmediawriter

    Reblogged this on allmediawriter.

  21. Tracie

    Stephen I agree completely with you. The ones who changed the world realised how beneficial non-violent protests work. It brings people in so much quicker than violent protests. That’s why MIM was so successful.

    As for the media, didn’t they apologise afterwards for not turning up? They would have been there yesterday in any case, and were very intent on hearing from the mothers. Unfortunately, the sensationalism took over. Although the international media has an infinitely better grasp on what’s going on here, as well as independent media. Why are we still so hung up on media that many of us refuse to now purchase?

    I’m not sure if any of the asylum seekers could have heard any of the yelling until they were close to the buses. I went to Villawood today, and the buildings are quite distant from the entrance area. From what the mothers told me, they would have loved knowing there were people who cared for them.

    For those who have not met a Hazara yet, they have an inner strength that is incredible. They are successful in the community. They deserve better than to be treated so poorly, no matter where they live.

    I believe that what we need to realise is that they are people – the asylum seekers and the police. Treating them all like an enemy is degrading.

    In relation to what happened in the Vietnam war – that was 40 years ago. Haven’t we learned anything yet? Or are we also stuck in a bygone era, like abbott is?? Are we really at war right now? And if so, with whom? Ourselves? Please let us NOT be like them. We are better than them.

    There will be more marches. Lets keep them peaceful.

  22. mars08

    As for the media, didn’t they apologise afterwards for not turning up?

    No. No they did not. Some went on the attack and others made excuses about why they thought is wasn’t worth covering. No apologies, no regrets.

    I’m not sure if any of the asylum seekers could have heard any of the yelling until they were close to the buses.

    I’m guessing that many of those protesting were not there to lift the morale of the asylum seekers. They were there to protest what they saw as injustice and inhumane treatment.

    In relation to what happened in the Vietnam war – that was 40 years ago. Haven’t we learned anything yet? Or are we also stuck in a bygone era…

    They boycott of South African business (along with massive civil disobedience and demonstrations) was 30 years ago. Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaign was over 80 years ago. Seems that the oppressors too are stuck in a bygone era. But they are making it work for them.

  23. Julanne Sweeney

    3 comments ,on reflection:

    1.See the film HANNAH ARENDT about the banality of evil.We are all to blame.

    2. I was at Adelaide’s March in March and AFTER the peaceful rally with helpful police and informed speeches , was shocked to see massed police and their cars called into the fray,arresting young protesters who did not appear to have the motives of most of us at heart and seemed to relish the publicity of conflict. I agree with Tracie Aylmer’s observation.

    3.Let us have a March in August on ONE issue, Asylum seeker policy

    and

    a March in September on one issue, accepting IPCC Climate Change report .

    Street protests need to be single issue,non- violent and so well publicised and supported that the media and Government cannot ignore them.

  24. mars08

    Ah… wait a minute? There was violence by protesters at Villawood… against the police? I haven’t seen any reports. Can someone please link to the incidents?

  25. john921fraser

    <

    @Tracie Aylmer

    You can't talk about Gandhi and then go on the say the Vietnam protests were 40 years ago.

    It doesn't make sense.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Actually, the article from smh makes it sound like it was too violent really and apparently no-one was arrested?

    “Officers detained three people at the protest for a “breach of the peace”, a police spokesman said, adding that they were not charged and had since been released.

    A fourth person, Marlene Carrasco, escaped arrest after an officer accused her of stealing his cap during the clash.”

  27. mars08

    Thanks Kaye Lee… I actually read that item when it appeared on the SMH site yesterday. From the comments above, I was under the impression that there had been a significant confrontation and serious aggression from both sides.

  28. Konstantina Vlahos

    I don’t think Tracie needs to justify herself or her article, seeing as is she is working so closely with the refugees we all support. I understand that strong action gains media attention, but what kind of attention? Doesn’t it simply feed into the ‘long-haired unemployed Newstart -allowanced, professional protestor’ stereotype (with all due respect, as I have been a long-haired hippy and Newstart recipient myself in the past)?

    I teach an evening reading/writing/spelling class for Australian adults and when I asked my students if any of them would be attending the MIM march, hoping to hear a resounding, ‘Yes!’ seeing as they are all blue collar workers, they reacted with disgust. ‘No way…*insert comments about stereotype described above.’

    Yes, this is a lie perpetrated by the media and our politicians, but why do we need to feed it? Why do we need to provide footage for the media to manipulate? Surely the only way we can overcome the current tyrannical political system is to show unity and to educate the public in an intelligent compassionate way?

    Thank you Tracie for your article and for the work you do.

  29. mars08

    I wonder how many of the people outside Villawood actually fit the long-haired unemployed Newstart -allowanced, professional protestor’ stereotype. Let’s face it, according to the usual suspects, the MiM was just overflowing with “hippies” and “tree-huggers”. That’s their story and they’ll stick with it.

  30. john921fraser

    <

    @Konstantina Vlahos

    Tracie Aylmer does not have to "justify" her article, but she does have to accept that there are reasons why protesters ramp up their protest.

    In the 1960s (the Age of Aquarius) protesters were "long haired hippies" and for the first couple of years it was only "communists" who had taken up the cause for troops (U.S mainly) to get out of Vietnam, towards the end of the 60s (the Age of Aquarius) the hippies and left Labor took up the cause and from there it skyrocketed to marches in capital cities the like of which had never been seen in Australia.

    Refugees have been vilified and locked up for long enough in the name of (not me) Australians.

    If protesters now want to indulge in civil disobedience that sees them pushed back by a "thin" blue line operating under orders of a secretive government then I for one will support them.

    I see it as my civil duty to uphold the Declaration of Human Rights and to support my fellow Australians who happen to agree with that.

    Not to many Australians know just how much input Australia had into to this Declaration :

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    I think its worthwhile upholding its ideals …… and in these times of government secrecy I will not argue against the protest that took place yesterday.

  31. Pipi Russell (@PipiRussell9)

    When did any of the protesters get violent? In the whole time I was there, from 11.30pm Friday until after the buses left there was no evidence of any violence coming from the protesters side. There are plenty of videos around showing the opposite of the police. The protest remained peaceful until the police worked outside of the law, and even then the protesters kept their hands to themselves.

  32. Samuel Russell

    I believe Tracie has reason to apologise for her error of fact where she says, “but ignoring police direction and going so far as to kick and punch police officers” given that she “was not there at the period of time when the protesters and police clashed.” I do not believe that Tracie is adequately informed to make this statement. I was present at the site from 11.30pm until 11am. I was there on the multiple occasions when the Police clashed with protestors.

    I did not witness protestors kicking or punching the Police.

    I have read the available mainstream media text reports, and observed the mainstream media video reports. I have observed non-mainstream media video reports. None of these reports show, or claim, that protestors struck Police. The police did not arrest people for assault, nor have the Police claimed in mainstream media that they were victims of assault.

    I believe Tracie has great cause to apologise for claiming as facts things which I have very strong reason to believe did not occur.

  33. Tracie

    Pipi Russell I saw a protester try to punch and kick a cop. That’s pretty violent, and unnecessary.

    In relation to protests, I speak to a Christian Democrat regularly. He will only vote for Fred Nile and only watches MSN. He told me he saw the footage on the news, where everything looked ‘rough’. He also said that all he knew of the situation was that some asylum seekers were moving to Perth due to renovations.

    There are two things that should be noted on his side of the conversation. He used to call refugees ‘illegal’. Now he calls them ‘asylum seekers’. That’s heavily due to me. I have made a staunch Christian Democrat – who believed wholeheartedly in Tony Abbott – think of them humanely. It’s not an easy feat.

    The second aspect was that he had no idea WHY the protest took place. He didn’t know that these people would be separated from their families, or that there would be a court case.

    So, basically, the whole point of the protest was completely and utterly lost on everyone else in Australia.

    Does protesting work in situations such as this? Not on anyone’s life!

  34. Kaye Lee

    This is the video. I see no kicking or punching. The report says that three people were arrested but that is apparently not true. They were detained but not charged. The worst thing they did it seems to me was to block the road and shout shame on you at the police – a phrase I hear politicians say as they nod in chorus in parliament every question time. They knew they couldn’t stop the buses, they were making a point by delaying them. I say again, the police person in charge could have made a conciliatory decision to delay the transfer by one week. Morrison claims it was to do renovations at Villawood – what harm would there be to negotiate a delay to allow the court case to be heard and soothe the tension.

    http://au.news.yahoo.com/video/watch/22404154/violent-clash-at-villawood/

  35. Pipi Russell (@PipiRussell9)

    Tracie, why would a protester try to kick and punch a police officer if they were not clashing? That seems fairly random. And if this did happen, how can you damn the protest on the actions of one person?

  36. Kaye Lee

    They treated this like the extradition of criminals. It is blatantly another case of misreporting “look over there” to detract attention from yet another example of this government stopping investigations and free speech.

    We are now being encouraged to “dob in a workmate” if they are critical of the Abbott/Credlin regime. Another scary reminder of a time gone by.

    “PUBLIC servants will be urged to ­dob in colleagues posting political criticism of the Abbott government on social media, even if the comments are anonymous, under new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines.”

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/colleagues-told-dob-in-political-web-posts/story-fnii5s3y-1226875635588

  37. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    We need to move past the march and shout protests that the government is organized to fight against.

    We need to be smarter and more creative about civil disobedience, while not actually breaking laws or putting people at risk we need to reassert that people are human beings and have the right to protest and be heard.

    At the moment our leaders only listen to money and corporations, we need to find an effective voice that will be heard.

  38. Stephen Tardrew

    Agreed Mars8;

    It just seems to me that ordinary people always suffer the most when violence is used. Militarization of the police is not going to help. I can understand as a last line of resistance when violence is used against ordinary citizens however hopefully it will be possible to not go there. There are possible exceptions. Conversely we are not suffering like Gandhi’s Indians or South Africans.

  39. contriteshadow

    I attended MarchInMarch (Melbourne) protest, too. And, despite a young friend’s complaint that it was too peaceful, I was thrilled that it was almost exactly as promised on the website. We don’t need to be shout to be heard; we just need to be right. The police quietly and professionally kept protesters and bystanders safe, even though they could have (obviously ridiculous to even attempt it) made tens of thousands of arrests. Australians are (until 1st September) permitted assembly in public places for the purpose of peaceful protest. We are not permitted to block access to anyone; not on the footpath, road or anywhere else, or stop someone from going about their day, i.e. bus drivers. To do so means you may be subject to arrest. If you don’t get arrested, it’s because the police choose not to make a bad situation worse. I know this because, before joining my first protest as an adult, I researched my rights. Seems like some of Villawood protesters did not.

    I think it’s quite revealing that one Tweeted pic of the protest was accompanied by a caption complaining about there being not enough people to combat police violence. In that pic I saw police standing in a line; no visible weapons of any sort, not even raised or locked arms. I asked, “What violence?” So far, have received no reply. Seems, from my admittedly distant point of view on this one, that the only violence is being perpetrated by passionate but uninformed protesters. Even if Reza Berati hadn’t been murdered, the recent (since Howard government) plight of “our” asylum seekers will remain forever a stain on the integrity of this country. But, if you can explain to me how adding yet more violence and bigotry will help desperate people who have already endure so much of both, then you are far better with words than me.

    “The pursuit of truth does not permit violence on one’s opponents.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  40. mars08

    Pipi Russell:

    When did any of the protesters get violent? In the whole time I was there, from 11.30pm Friday until after the buses left there was no evidence of any violence coming from the protesters side…”

    Nice to get another perspective from someone who was there. Now, given that you couldn’t cover the whole scene 100% of the time, is there a chance you may have missed something? Is there a possibility that protester TRIED to “punch and kick a cop” and you didn’t spot it?

    Because, as Tracie says: “protesting in order to create ugly clashes with the police does nothing for the cause.” And one protester looking like they’re trying to punch a copy is as ugly as it gets… apparently.

  41. Stephen Tardrew

    Kaye I think that this sort of “dob in your workmates” is really starting to reek of a police state and a denial of free speech from the “free speech” party. What bloody minded hypocrisy. The NLP cannot be trusted on social justice. This is starting to bother me big time.

    Sad to say Obama has set the agenda through his treatment of whistle blowers. If only someone had blown the whistle on Bush and Cheney before the Iraq war. Similarly if someone had blown the whistle on toxic assets, derivatives and undisciplined mortgages the financial crisis could have been minimized.

    Silence in these cases is complicity in corruption. This moving of the left to the right is Killing progressivism.

    This is certainly not democracy. Autocracy with dashings of theocracy.

    The danger signs are growing day by day.

  42. mars08

    Stephen:

    If only someone had blown the whistle on Bush and Cheney before the Iraq war. Similarly if someone had blown the whistle on toxic assets…

    I think you’ll find that quite a few people tried very hard to sound the alarm in BOTH cases. And both times the timid MSM and clueless opposition parties (mainly in the anglosphere) refused to force the issue.

    Sad to say Obama has set the agenda through his treatment of whistle blowers…

    And that’s another thing that scares the hell out of me!!! Obama, to a large extent, was elected president simple because he was NOT the dim-witted, semi-literate buffoon who preceeded him. After the Neanderthal Dubya, they were eager for any improvement. As it turns out, some of Bush’s most extreme and dubious policies have remained in place (or even grown) under Obama.

    THAT is my fear. Should the Australian electorate eventually wise up to Abbott and boot him out… the bar has been set so low, that his successor could still get away with being a total wanker.

  43. john921fraser

    <

    @g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    Googled your moniker and read some of your posts on other sites.

    Hope you enjoy what you find here and continue to post.

  44. Stephen Tardrew

    Mars8

    Absolutely where are the dynamic leaders of tomorrow. Selected out during preselection.
    Look at the farce in WA. It’s all very disturbing.

  45. Scott Stewart

    I for one am so relieved to see the refugee campaign do more than beg and plead at the murderers/torturers who give the orders. People need to be prepared to put their bodies on the line to stop this barbarity. The protest was a brief of fresh air,i hope we refugee activists can take inspiration from this and bring this horror to an end. 1000’s of innocent Men/Women/Children being tortured every moment of every day in our name. This can not continue.

  46. fryaduck

    I’m sorry but you people just don’t have the will or intestinal fortitude to enact change. All you can do is vent and rage. You will feel better for it if you just stop blogging it.

  47. john921fraser

    <

    Thanks for that "fryaduck".

    Although if you were half the person you think you are you would be adding some information here that everyone could pass on to the rest of Australia.

    Sorry if I have insulted you, hopefully you won't go away thinking you deserved it.

  48. mars08

    Oh wow, fryaduck! How percipient of you!

    Is that persona just something you use on the internet? Or are you like that out in public?

  49. Nick Riemer

    Tracie – I’m sorry the protest wasn’t a good experience for you, but the views you express here are unjustified and counterproductive. I’m part of the Refugee Action Coalition, which was one of the organisers of Saturday. It’s important that people who support refugees not undermine the cause by spreading misinformation. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what your article does.

    First off, it’s unfortunate that you attribute to the protesters the sole motivation of creating “ugly clashes with the police”. You obviously didn’t pay any attention on the multiple occasions when protesters, including me, addressed the crowd to talk about why we were there. On the evidence of that, and on the evidence of my experience of refugee protests at Villawood and elsewhere – unlike you, I’ve been to quite a lot – I think it’s fair to say that no one was protesting to “create ugly clashes with the police” and “in the name of” any asylum seekers, as for some reason you think. People who were there were almost universally protesting in their own name against the government’s human rights abuses, which I know from your article you care about a lot. As a matter of fact, I made quite a long speech at the protest, which you can see here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7F-s9OXOUg (it starts round 3:45), outlining exactly the political rationale for the way the protest happened. In fact, I stated that we *weren’t* there to fight with the police. Did you somehow miss this and all the other speeches? That’s the only explanation I can think of for your otherwise inexplicable, and in any case unjustifiable, assertion that we were there to pick a fight.

    It’s also pretty remarkable that you choose to believe that protesters were in fact “violent”, and that it was *they* who “kicked” and “punched” *the police*, on an occasion at which you weren’t, by your own admission present, and for which you rely on second-hand evidence. I hope you’re a bit more critical when you’re helping people get their visas! As anyone who was there in the front line will tell you, the violence came from the police. You might find that surprising, but it’s characteristically the case in this kind of situation. Why else would they need dogs and horses?

    You tell us that a protest like Saturday’s “does nothing for the cause”. Why would you think that? And how, after only two protests, are you in a position to make an informed judgement? Militant protest movements are a constant in the long history of human rights struggles around the world. I’ve written about this as it affects the refugee movement here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/21/writing-letters-protest. Nothing changes if we predicate a political movement for change on showing “respect” to a police force which has always functioned, among other things, to repress dissent.

    It’s very striking that you cite ‘March in March’ as a comparison. I happened to speak at the Sydney March in March on refugees. There couldn’t be a clearer contrast with Saturday’s Villawood protest. Sure, MiM involved 10 000 – 20 000 people in Sydney. But it was barely covered in the media – unlike Saturday, which, with only 100-150 people present, got extensive media coverage, including being the top item in the ABC TV news – a report which was mostly dedicated to giving protesters the chance to present their side of the story. To me, that looks like a successful protest. If you want to reach substantial numbers of people, you have to go via the media in the first instance. That’s only going to happen if you make a fuss. Hence the disruptive character of activism. Our refusal to get off the road led, as we knew it would, to a violent and unjustified response from the police which bought us national media coverage. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to show that there’s a cost to the government in pursuing policies which destroy refugees’ lives, and if we want to break into the news cycle to force the issue onto people’s attention. The more we do that, the sooner we’ll build a movement that will change public opinion and make it impossible for politicians to continue their present sick and vicious attacks on innocent people. I’m sure you can make a significant contribution to that movement, but your comments in the article are prejudicial and unfair in the extreme.

  50. john921fraser

    <

    @Nick Riemer

    The first I knew of the government actions and the protest was when I saw it on tv.

    And I saw mostly under 25 male & female protesters and I fully support their actions … fully !

    Congratulations to all who were at the protest and I want you to know that you are protesting in my name.

    I freely stand up against the tyranny being imposed on refugees by the Australian government.

  51. clarelhdm

    I feel Tracie that you are unaware of the difference between social work and activism. Your work is individual and obviously essential, but you are working on a one to one basis with asylum seekers, trying to help them with their individual cases. Activists are trying to change the law. This takes very different strategies. Activists don’t tell you how to do your job, and I don’t think you should tell them how to do theirs. And as Nick has posted above, at the very most you saw one person ‘try to kick and punch a policeman’ but somehow you have inflated that to become ‘everyone was there to pick a fight’ Frankly I am thoroughly sick of the LNP and co demanding that the other side (whoever they are) ‘play nice’ As if they do!!!!! I guarantee you that they do not hesitate to play dirty. Raised voices and sit ins are non violent protest tools Tracie, just getting up off the road and doing what you are told is nothing at all. Not a protest, not even a whimper.

  52. Toby

    The cops start the violence , if u can’t take it stay indoors writing reports

    Achieving little except in case by case bases while our democracy is raped

    Asylum seekers issues are the symptom not the problem

    This article borders on complicity

  53. Luke Weyland

    I protested, and will protest for the rights of those who have arrived here who have fled persecution and/or violence. I protest because both Liberal and Labor Ministers for Immigration have gone against the Article 14.1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. I protest because I want the world to know that I am disgusted with both Her Majesty’s Government and the Opposition. I will continue to protest, until all refugees are free.

  54. Pingback: Villawood and the problem with pacifist liberalism | DISCOBEDIENCE

  55. Tom Raue

    I’m the guy getting a cop’s elbow to the face in the picture up to top. I didn’t punch or kick as the author says (she wasn’t even at the protest during the confrontation) but I did resist police violence. The idea that protestors should always obey police directions, make noise on the footpath where nobody will hear you etc is ridiculous. The author was at the protest to feel good about herself, but I was there to put myself on the line and do everything I could to stop the removal of refugees through non violent direct action. If some people want to protest in a different way, that’s fine by me but to write this polemic focusing on the supposed crimes of protestors, rather than focusing on the government is pathetic. To blame the victims of police violence is pathetic. The author should be ashamed of herself.

  56. Stephen Tardrew

    Toby I could tell you a thing or two about protesting, stopping wars, saving rainforest, stopping dams. No violence is not necessary and it is often those who go to protests and behave in a non-violent manner who have the greatest effect.

    Stop judging peoples actions and motivations through the myopic window of your own beliefs.

  57. Claire

    To a couple of commenters: Please stop mischaracterising people of colour–whether Brown or Black recognised leaders–to fit into liberal-approved forms of dissent within a white supremacist society. Stop using individual leaders as sole representatives of varied movements whom have become synonymous with ‘peacefulness’. A whole range of tactics were used to fight white supremacy and colonialism in Apartheid South Africa and other countries.

    To the OP: As far as I can see a variety of tactics are being employed now–inside and outside the camps.

    I was safe and was there the whole time. I witnessed fantastic organising, people supporting each other emotionally, medically and physically. I won’t get into specifics and people there too have already mentioned some of what happened and posted links–but it was the police who tried a lot of intimidation tactics all night, and of course became more forceful and their presence and action culminated in police brutality. What on earth could justify the riot police, a chopper, trained dogs and the barricade for solely being on the street and wanting to protest these so-called transfers? Trained dogs apparently first used to get refugees on to the coach.

    People who faced the police head on as part of the picket can talk about their own experiences. What is not needed is facile interpretations where all you have to do is talk to the police, they’ll escort you to their car and since you were treated OK, then that translates into ‘if you are respectful to the police, then they’ll be respectful to you’. No. I understand that there are different interpretations of the state and its function, but when you missed a lot of the protest, when you speak on behalf of the Hazaras, when you use the fantastic Mothers for Asylum Seekers as another model for ‘good’ dissent at the expense of other forms of dissent that doesn’t meet liberal approval then I really wonder what is the point of this perspective being published on an ‘independent media’ site, which hasn’t been replicated 100s of times before in mainstream media? In fact there were mainstream media reports that were more multidimensional than this.

    P.S. Also love what Rafi wrote.

  58. mars08

    I don’t think anyone would deny that this fabricated, politicised issue is leaving deep wounds in our national psyche. Ah well …some might disagee with the “fabricated and politicised” bit.

  59. studentsthinkingoutsideborders

    Do you really think that those (unarmed) protestors actually went out of their way to attack the police, who have tasers and attack dogs on them? Do you know that the police were harassing the protestors from 11 pm that night, when they were doing nothing more than sitting in their cars?

    You’re a terrible, sanctimonious person. Read our blog

  60. Chloe R

    You are a liar. I was at the protest. No protester kicked or punched any police officer, if they did there would have been more injuries and arrests than there were. It was a blockade to attempt to stop or delay the buses. The only violence was done by the police who pushed, threatened, and ultimately broke up the blockade. Your condescending and racist mischaracterisation of refugees is just as appalling. We came to stop the bus and you came to throw refugee supporters under it!

    Why don’t you take a look at Woomera Breakout 2002 to get a better idea of what refugees and their supporters can do when they confront the violence of the state. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeR39ddbD2k

  61. Ashwyn Falkingham

    What I hear in this article is someone complaining that the few people who cared enough to show up to prevent an unjust action by the government should have merely voiced their disapproval, while doing everything in their power to avoid hindering said unjust action. This apparently would draw in the masses of people to voice their equally banal and directionless dissent, such as happened in March in March.
    A policy of passive cooperation:
    “The police asked for people to move to the footpath. Considering the footpath is quite large, it sounded like a reasonable request. People could have been just as vocal on the footpath, as they were on the road. It didn’t matter where, as long as the people were vocal.”
    is now in the comments being likened to Gandhist non-cooperation. I hardly see how the salt marches, for example, would have worked if people upon arriving at the sea then proceeded to obey the reasonable request of police not to collect any salt. They could have been just as vocal without collecting salt. It doesn’t matter, as long as they were vocal.
    No, the problem with this protest was not a preponderance of protestor violence, but a lack of numbers to make stopping the busses a possibility. One has to wonder if March in March was so successful, why hasn’t it channeled people into concrete actions such as this one, which pose a real threat of exposing government cruelty, and even occasionally preventing some of these unjst acts.

  62. Ashwyn Falkingham

    Oh, and cut the bullshit about ‘who the asylum seekers are’. Everyone is an individual, and your generalisations here are just as harmful as racist stereotypes. I suppose the reason that Villawood burned down in 2011 was because someone left a ciggarette unattended?

  63. john921fraser

    <

    Some very bad news being reported about an asylum seeker in Australia.

  64. mars08

    Some very bad news being reported about an asylum seeker in Australia…

    Just goes to show how violent, irrational and/or unstable those foreigners are. We don’t want them in our nice communities. etc. etc .etc.

    BTW. Also seeing reports of asylum seekers seriously cutting themselves with window glass. Of course, none of it in the MSM.

    Sooo looking forward to The Voice: Australia coming back after Easter. Wasn’t the last episode of The Block awesome? And did you see there’s a new character on NCIS?????

  65. Peter Lee

    Tracie
    I note that you are a migration agent and that you wqere at Villawood in support of some of your clients/friends.

    Perhaps you have forgotten that the purpose of establishing detention centres at remote locations was to deprive Migration Agents and Lawyers of convenient access to their clients.
    If your friend or relative was one of those being transported to a remote location, perhaps you would not be so calm about that relative being moved to a location which would prohibit you from visiting.
    Perhaps you might understand that those people outside Villawood had a more moving interest in proceedings than your own monetary concerns.
    Bye the way, moving the people on to the footpath outside Villawood nhad nothing to do with the volume of passing traffic.

  66. Pingback: Rights and justice for #refugees are not commodities: @novidados reports

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