- Investigation of police action at the World Economic Forum demonstrations, September 2000, Report of the Ombudsman, June 2001 [PDF]
…for what it’s worth (is it worth writing?), here’s the second part of my reply to Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt‘s lies regarding S11, the three days of protest and carnival in opposition to the Asia-Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum at Crown Casino in Melbourne, Monday, September 11 — Wednesday, September 13, 2000.
- [Part One]
While the corporate lickspittle‘s main concern appears to be assisting local Tories to score a few cheap political points against the current Brack’s Labor State Government — and to also assist his mates in the Police Union in its battles with Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon — Bolt himself has had a bee in his bonnet regarding the propensity of local activists’ to embarrass his paymasters for some time: including, at S11, attempting to pay a visit to the H&WT building…
Now, consider the specific clash, which had 47 of the protesters suing 953 police.
I obviously do not know the details of the case brought by Slater & Gordon on behalf of the 47 litigants and, given the nature of the subsequent agreement between the company and the Government, won’t know them at any time in the near future, if ever. However, one of the reasons the litigants ‘sued’ 953 police — ie, pursued a claim against a corporate entity — is because they were forced to. In other words, one of the major problems experienced by protesters interested in seeking redress for their taxpayer-funded injuries through the courts was the fact that approximately 80-90% of police deliberately chose to attempt to avoid identification by removing their ID.
The reasons for this are obvious: individual police — especially those on the frontlines — had legitimate concerns that their actions — punching little girls and grandmothers in the face etcetera on behalf of the richest men on the planet — might leave them open to litigation. And while the corporate/state media ignored and continues to ignore this issue, Perry does at least discuss it on pp.180-184 of his Report. His hand-wringing, and Deputy Commissioner O’Loughlin’s tall tales regarding his attempts to ensure police actually did follow their own guidelines, would be considerably funnier if the results of police attempts to avoid accountability for their actions did not have such serious consequences for those subject to their violent assaults.
Oh, and as far as I’m aware, Bolt is again lying when he claims that the “specific clash” for which the 47 litigants sought legal redress is that which took place at the time of Dick’s arrival at Crown (below). Thus, of the handful of litigants who have made public statements regarding the case, none support Bolt’s lies: Rod Quantock recalls being beaten on Tuesday night (‘Comedian objects to brutal police’, The Age, March 4, 2007); “serial protester” — ie, long-time political activist — Ciaron O’Reilly, on the other hand, was beaten and kicked in the head by police on the Tuesday morning.
O’Reilly’s account of the police heroes’ action is worth recalling at length:
- At 7 a.m. on the Tuesday we joined 30 folks already in a sitting blockade position at that gate [at the intersection of Queensbridge and Power / Whiteman Streets]. These included two Green Members of Parliament from New Zealand [/Aotearoa: Nandor Tanczos and Sue Bradford]. We had a very nonviolent vibe, plenty of singing, no verbal abuse etc.
Fifteen minutes in, the riot squad, armed with batons, ran out of the casino and assembled behind police ranks. Riot police [189 members of the Force Response Unit, 63 transit police and 306 members of the regular police force, according to the Ombudsman’s Report (pp.107–108)] than ran into, over and through our bloc, many stopping to kick people in the face and groin with their heavy boots, many wielding batons as they went. I was struck in the head several times by batons and kicked in the face. We kept oming.
Some folks were screaming in pain. One Lismore woman had her arm broken, one Melbourne man his wrist broken, an Irish guy scored a broken nose. There were head wounds, broken ribs, concussions, loss of blood, pissing blood and glasses smashed. On reflection we felt sitting made our bloc more resolute and less vulnerable to limb and facial injuries. Membership of an affinity group was a decisive factor in this act of resistance being an empowering rather than a demoralising experience.
Groups of riot police then began snatching people off the blockade. Four police grabbed me by my dreads, legs & arms and dragged me 40 metres on the bitumen away from the rest of the crowd. I was isolated on the far side of the tight riot squad formation that was claiming the intersection in preparation for rapid entry of delegate buses. The police then batoned me around the body and the head. Throughout this experience I asked “Have I done anything illegal?” and “Am I being charged?”. They continued the bashing without any verbal response. They left me in a heap and retreated behind the shoulder-to-shoulder, batons-extended riot formation.
The buses were speeding into the casino through a gap in the formation using the far lane. I jumped up and ran across the road, managing to take a standing star position in front of the last bus, which screeched to a halt in front of me. I was then jumped by four riot police who batoned me on the road and then dragged me onto the sidewalk against the wall and bashed me again. Interrupted by an ABC film crew they retreated behind the riot formation that had secured the intersection.
The lying liar continues:
On the blockade’s first day, a car carrying the then West Australian premier Richard Court tried to drive up to the casino, but protesters blocked it, bashing its panels, letting down its tyres, and threatening it with fire.
Five police negotiators pleaded with the crowd to let the trapped Court go free but were ignored. After nearly an hour, one protester climbed up on the car’s roof and whipped up the crowd even more, and police commanders knew the time for talk was over.
A phalanx of police rushed into the maddened mob, and had to fight their way to Court’s car. Some struck out with batons, one using an overhead action instead of the approved sideways swing, for which he was later officially reprimanded.
Wrestling the protesters at every step, they squeezed the car to safety. Some officers were injured, with one policewoman falling after her horse was deliberately tripped up.
Another remarkable work of fiction by Bolt.
To begin with: if Dick were less arrogant, this situation could have been completely avoided. Thus while police made arrangements for other delegates to avoid the blockade by entering the casino by boat or helicopter, as Dick remarked at the time, “I’m not interested in exotic forms of transport. If I go to a convention I like to roll up at the front door”.
Dick’s car went as far as it could, but then stopped: the driver, presumably, not being prepared to actually run people over in order to allow Dick to reach his target. At which point, of course, the car was surrounded (by peasants armed with pitchforks), at least one of its tyres deflated, and, eventually, one protester climbed onto its roof, taking advantage of the platform Dick had inadvertently provided in order to address the crowd on the subject of Aboriginal land rights. Perhaps this is the “fire” Bolt believes threatened Dick and his car? Who knows — it’s a completely novel claim as far as I can discern. The “maddened mob” Bolt refers to is also a product of Bolt’s imagination; certainly, if those who’d assembled to marvel at Dick’s arrogance had wanted to, they had ample time to drag him from his car and deliver him a beating.
As it happens, that privilege was seized upon by another maddened rent-a-mob: the police.
Now, lastly, consider how such a violent protest led to the suing not of the perpetrators but the police.
Activists, especially those working in the law, have worked out a great new way to push their agenda – especially now that so many new judges and magistrates sympathise with their politics.
They sue. And they don’t even need a win to win.
In reality, only police and lawyers have ‘won’ as a result of the out-of-court settlement: the police victory consisting of having avoided going to trial, and losing, and the lawyers’ victory amounting to something like $1.3 million. The non-existent “windfall” the Herald Sun elsewhere lyingly claims 47 protesters have received consists of a paltry pay-out of approximately $2,000 (on average).
To Be Concluded…