Dancing protesters off the hook
Sydney Morning Herald
July 10, 2007
All charges have been dropped against two women who were in court over impersonating police officers during a protest.
The women performed a Pirates of Penzance-style “theatrical gesture” to mock police before being arrested, a court heard today. One of the women – who perform a street act known as the Tranny Cops during protests – “had her thumbs in her belt and rocked back and forth on her toes”, an officer said. Under cross-examination, the officer said the movement was a “theatrical gesture” to indicate policemen. Police arrested Sarah Michelle Harrison, 28, of the Northern Territory, and Anika Vinson, 24, of Marrickville, at a rally against the Sydney visit of US Vice-President Dick Cheney on February 23.
Earlier in the day, the magistrate David Heilpern dismissed all charges against Ms Vinson… He said all evidence pointed to Ms Vinson wearing the uniform for the purposes of dance and street performance. The women were charged with one count of impersonating a police officer and exercising police powers and one count of wearing a police uniform while not being police officers.
NSW police prosecutor Matt Fordham told the Downing Local Court the women committed the offences when they attempted to direct two cars that had turned into Essex Street, The Rocks, during the early morning protest. At the time, a group of protesters and more than 100 police had gathered on the street two blocks from the Shangri-La Hotel where Mr Cheney was staying. Mr Fordham conceded at the start of the hearing that all matters before and after the women allegedly directed the cars at the protest “involved an element of street theatre”.
The women were recognised in the crowd by Senior Sergeant Ian Franke, who is attached to the APEC Security Command as a field intelligence co-ordinator. “I saw two persons dressed in dark clothing similar to officers on the police line,” he told the court. “I had seen photographs … of [them] dressed as they were on that day from an interstate police operation.”
Senior Sergeant Franke said he saw Ms Harrison walk towards two cars – a silver car and a black Mercedes – that were trying to turn into Essex Street where the protesters were gathered. He said he could see Ms Harrison had a moustache drawn on her top lip and Ms Vinson had sideburns drawn on the side of her face. “They were performing different actions, dancing, [and] one of them had her hands in the front of her genitals,” he said.
Senior Sergeant Franke said he saw Ms Harrison bend down to talk to the drivers and indicate with her right arm away from the group of protesters. Both cars drove out of the area shortly afterwards. He said he could not hear the conversation that took place either time and that he could not see the registrations of either vehicle involved. The women were arrested shortly afterward, allegedly directing cars, he said.
More than 100 Operational Support Group police officers were positioned between the protesters and the hotel and traffic flow into the streets around the hotel was restricted.
Entered into evidence were the clothes the women were wearing on the day, which included black boots, a black belt, blue overalls and a blue hat. Mr Fordham entered into evidence a symbol that was on the women’s uniforms that he said was similar to the Victorian police insignia. Mr Heilpern said: “I presume Victoria police haven’t seen it but they don’t have an anarchist sign in the middle [of their insignia].”
– with David Marr
See also : The battle of Britton all over again, Alecia Simmonds, SMH, July 11, 2007: More operetta than Operation Cheney, David Marr, SMH, July 11, 2007 | Uni lets police see personal records, Edmund Tadros, SMH, July 11, 2007: “THE University of Technology, Sydney, has given police access to student and staff information during the past two years without the knowledge or consent of those involved…”