As a solicitor in NSW and a community media practitioner this writer has been very interested in various aspects of this APEC week.
Now we are at the most serious end with the world leaders meeting in session and the biggest protest march scheduled in 10 hours time meeting at Town Hall at 10 am.
It has been raining heavily so the weather may or may not be conducive. That's in the hands of God or whatever guiding spirit you follow.
But here on Earth the NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione as a former chief of police intelligence, and his lieutenant Chief Superintendent Stephen John Cullen Commander of the Public Order and Riot Squad, are responsible for peace welfare and good order in Hyde Park North Friday 7th of September.
I have just finished an interview with the night shift at the ABC news desk via their direct phone line. A long chat on tape with plenty of material to work with.
My take was quite similar and independent to this which I have just seen on the SMH website this early Saturday morning:
APEC protesters dismiss police warnings about violence at a march in Sydney today.
and video by SMH here
In my interview I said: How can a police force - as evidenced by the web reports of the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday afternoon here
- encourage two counter protests at the same time and same place in Hyde Park North, one for George W Bush, and one against the USA President. We heard via abc radio that the numbers were 10 to 1 against the pro bush banner holders.
What the images on the SMH website showed yesterday, especially one image, is that a NSW police phalanx shepherded the pro Bush banner holders into the same place and time of a long time scheduled 'bums against Bush' event which might indeed have attracted world coverage, like those mass naked glacier events.
Sure enough one anti Bush protester sought to spray symbolic red sauce on the pro Bush banner referring no doubt to the blood spilled in Iraq. He was arrested with serious force by police. This was the image of conflict we say the NSW police wanted, and promoted.
It's not the role of the NSW police hierarchy to play politics positiioning rival protests against each other same time and place, to promote conflict to justify their huge expenditure on security or to grandstand their law and order credentials.
It defies common sense that the police would chaperone a small banner weilding pro Bush protest into the midst of an anti Bush rally yesterday at Hyde Park North and is a proper matter of concern for consideration of the Police Integrity Commission.
The context is suggestive also - Scipione has been very clever as a former intelligence chief in denying the first march route past the Opera House, then second route along Martin Place, then very late in the piece announcing a road block only on Sept 4th via the Supreme Court at King and George st intersection and then allowing a third march route of their choosing to end at ... Hyde Park North just like the arrest yesterday.
In The Australian newspaper earlier this week here Black-listed marchers in court fight Sept 6th at page 11 state:
"Outside court, rally organiser Alex Bainbridge refused to rule out marching to King Street.
"The court has made very clear that we have got a right to protest. The court order today prohibits nothing, our rally and demonstration will be going ahead. As we have always said we intend for this to be a peaceful protest," Mr Bainbridge said.
Public Order and Riot Squad Commander Stephen Cullen told the court police were bracing for large-scale violence, with intelligence reports tendered in court saying protest organisers might be unable to maintain control.
The police intelligence report said "a right-wing group" numbering about 60 intended to attend the rally, which could lead to confrontation with others among the protesters themselves.
The second day of official protest passed peacefully yesterday, with police praising the conduct of about 250 demonstrators in Sydney's Belmore Park.
Sarah McKenzie, 16, from Ravenswood School for Girls, said the protest allowed young people to express their beliefs. "It's very important because I'm only 16 and I don't have the power to vote yet," she said. "
[bold, italic added]
If the NSW police under Scipione and Cullen act like they did at Hyde Park North Friday afternoon last with preferential support and prominence to a right wing group obviously seeking to provoke a reaction in the same place and location, then the NSW Police will be culpable of provoking violence for their own political purposes, just like we saw with rock carrying Quebec police in Canada reported their in late August 2007 by such as CBC network.
That's properly a matter for the PIC.
Fair notice of an intention to refer top brass to the NSW Police Integrity Commission to consider any improper political interference in the anti Bush protest march, free speech and right to assembly by encouraging concurrent conflicting protests at the same time and place with their police permit system.
Interestingly Tom Allard, National Security Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald writes today 8th September 2007:
referring to Cullen in the story and with this prescient comment:
"The psychology of the mob in protest rallies is an unpredictable beast. But there is no bigger influence on crowd behaviour than the police themselves. Bored and tense, officers controlling APEC have annoyed plenty already with their overbearing manner.
Calm and restraint are required from police manning protest lines. Unfortunately, if they have been listening to their commanders and political leaders, it's a message front-line police are unlikely to have heard."
Earlier this week we asked here on IMC will the NSW Police now that they have finally agreed to a protest march route act honourably and with integrity. We think the initial evidence of shepherding a pro Bush protest into the midst of an anti Bush rally is worrying evidence that they suffer a real deficit of honour and integrity.
Over to the Saturday protest march. Rain permitting.
Tom McLoughlin, solicitor in NSW, editor www.sydneyalternativemedia.com
3.00 am 8th Sept 2007
Picture: Jerry Watt at top left of a protest over south coast forests earlier this year 2007, referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald today 7th Sept 07.
The "W" word has finally appeared in the Sydney morning Herald. Twice in fact. Onya Gerry!
You can leave a comment in the SMH blog about this at: http://blogs.smh.com.au/newsblog/archives/freedom_of_information/015504.html
Please take the time to do that if yoou can.
[Sydney Morning Herald article follows]
Well the non govt sector has really risen to the occassion so far in a many act Shakespearean struggle for the hearts and minds of the voting public here in Sydney. Depending on the weather the main act may well yet be the anti war rally/march on Saturday morning 8th Sept 2007 at Sydney Town Hall at 10 am.
The big media have been putting in some pretty amazing balancers at times too. On the Sydney Morning Herald website yesterday before say 7 am they led on the front page with a graphic cartoon of Howard and Bush both wearing "I'm with stupid" T shirts pointing to eachother. The graphic didn't make the paper cut or even the daytime web readership, but it would have gone across the world back to the USA Democrat aligned bloggers.
Similarly on abc talkback midday yesterday a caller manager to calmly ask "why are we allowing a mass murderer into our country" (take your pick I suppose, the caller meant GW Bush, but think China, Indonesia etc). This created quite an awkward moment for compere James Vallentine worried about "slander" and balance. Or was he?! Only he knows.
The big media are featuring a courageous stunt by the Chaser comedy team here:
As the NSW Govt joins a beat up this last half hour against democratic protest over multinational corporations bad behaviour, with civilian protesters on one side (at least allegedly), and the NSW Chamber of Commerce and NSW Govt on the other side (like Deputy Premier Watkins on abc radio just now), these establishment folks don't want to talk about Thales Corporation.
Most thinking people have heard of the classic documentary about the psychological dysfunction of corporations made famous by The Corporation Film: Welcome
But the public and big media might not know that down at Darling Habour Tumbalong Park flying proudly are flags with the sponsorship name "Thales".
You can forget your Nike, or Starbucks, or similar greedy corporations known for exploitation or even collusion in sweat shops and murder of unionists in the case of Coca Cola in places like Columbia, at least for a moment.
Here is more of the involvement of this arms maker and dealer at APEC on their official website
|28 March 2007- Showcasing Thales Australia at APEC Australia 2007™ Transportation Ministers Meeting Thales Australia. 26 March 2007 - APEC Transportation ...|
Thales describe themselves in their own words:
"THALES Australia's origins
can be traced to the Colonial Ammunition Company, registered
in Victoria in 1888. The fully privatised ADI Limited
was established in November 1999, when the Department
of Defence approved the sale of the company to the
Transfield Holdings and Thomson-CSF (now THALES) 50:50
joint venture. In October of 2006 THALES Global purchased
Transfield Holdings remaining share of ADI to form
It's all here in blatant military industrial vanity:
THALES Australia is Australia's premier provider of systems, products and services in the defence, security and civil markets. THALES Australia's origins ...
blah blah blah.
This is the same corporation that sold off the huge ADI site full of native fauna for Lend Lease to clear and build urban development in Western Sydney.
And they have been having some embarrassing moments too at APEC here:
|Mr Johnson said an APEC staff member said the database, run by the defence company Thales Australia, was not uploading correctly to the APEC computers. ...|
And yes they are prominent corporate sponsers on the APEC flags flying over our CBD, using our taxpayers money to take over our city and provide them with corporate welfare, security services at the cost of of some $330 million dollars.
That is, we are paying for their war machine off on a Sydney junket with their international clients, literally.
So it seems Deputy Premier John Watkins is now working as a PR merchant for international arms manufacturer Thales, and other similar corporations at APEC?
Gee John, and we thought you were from the left of the ALP? Power and money changes everything obviously.
Funny to be at the Supreme Court and hear Judge Michael Adams give much of his judgement - at least from 2.30 pm - and then hear the 5pm news bulletin on the ABC (and 5.30 bulletin with its own error too).
The last sentence at the 5 O'clock bulletin stated words to the effect of 'in evidence to the court police said if the protest went ahead it would result in unprecedented violence'.
Is this exageration, or bias even, to the police view of things?
More seriously is this wrong and dishonest reporting by the ABC police reporter? Is she participating in a softening up of the Stop Bush Coalition of 30 peaceful protest groups, and as such acting as participant in the news making?
Picture: Here are two observant onlookers at the Supreme Court today, actually both Australian Federal Police intelligence officers.
Earlier today we posted on how the same ABC police reporter to our ears mis reported the actual or real meaning of police evidence which the Supreme Court Judge summarised as amounting to "a possibility of violence at the protest march", which was a very far cry from the ABC radio report of the police evidence being that a "protest march would probably involve violence". Not could, would.
That was straight out false reporting and bad news work to our ears.
In other legal contexts this kind of mis characterisation is the difference between say evidence amounting to an acquittal on the presumption of innocence, and a life sentence for murder.
So in the next phase of the news cycle after the scheduled 2pm court decision the ABC police reporter has again it seems got it badly wrong by saying evidence in the court from the police was categorical of 'a protest march would lead to unprecedented violence". Again not could but would.
Given we missed the first 30 minutes of the Judge's soliliquy this writer checked with a Sydney Morning Herald journalist close to their filing deadline on whether they heard this kind of "police evidence the protest march would cause unprecedented violence". He said certainly the judge never conceded there was evidence of that. I was at the hearing of all the police evidence for 4 hours this morning 7-11.30 am, and as I said the judge found police evidence of 'a possibility not a probability of violence'.
It's true we didn't get to read the police documents submitted but the judge's findings are highly suggestive no such evidence was submitted by the police that the protest march categorically "would cause unprecedented violence". Certainly they did refer to G20 violence and other world leaders meetings where there was lots of civil strife in the past. The judge wasn't categorical at all saying it was "a possibility".
The judge also said this morning that of all the Stop Bush Coalition literature, none of it attacks APEC as such, or denies the right of the attendees at APEC to be kept safe. Their protest is against Bush and the war in Iraq clearly.
Yet in the 5.30 bulletin on 702 radio, the SBC is described as one "anti APEC group". Misleading again. Yet this might be understandable given the police barrister revealed that some 81 applications for permits to protest had been made by diverse interests during the APEC period.
Picture: Keith McHenry, global founder of Food not Bombs Movement attends the hearing.
We rang the ABC executive producer for news on 702 radio and asked him what the hell is going on? Why is the evidence in the court being misdescribed, and giving the last word to some kind of bizarre police perspective, maybe outside the court and untested, compared to the balanced summary of what the Judge actually found was really in the police evidence to him - namely that 'the vast majority of protesters wanted and defended peaceful protest', the Stop Bush Coalition had no form for violence tactics in the evidence, yet it would be "PolyAnnerish" to deny there was no risk of violence by some people not associated with the SBC.
The Judge also said it made a big difference that the police commissioner had proposed a protest march route 'only a few blocks away' to allow free speech, and freedom of assembly.
Picture: Lone busker at Circular Quay behind the so called lockdown today, with this writer on pushy.
It seems quite apparent that the ABC police reporter, or the police outside the court evidentiary process, or both are spinning in an incredibly exagerated and favourable way to the law and order merchants in the NSW Police to damage the SBC position. That might be a good way to get more stories on the career drip from her police sources.
But it's not good or fair or ethical reporting, neither by the journalist or the ABC.
Today Crikey.com.au ran this editorial which is rips into the fawning to Law and Order Authoritarianism:" Dear Sole Subscriber,
Another sole subscriber, Crikey reader Ben Pearson, has been musing on APEC.
The ongoing campaign by police and pollies warning against ‘violent’ protests at APEC -- dutifully reported by the fourth estate -– masks the fact that all three of these actors actually benefit from a bit of public argy bargy and thus exaggerate both the threat and occasional occurrence of it.
Premier Iemma rails against ‘vandals’ and ‘violence’ to show that he is tough on law n order. Prime Minister John Howard, on the other hand, is hoping that a couple of university proto-anarchists will distract attention from the fact that APEC is nothing more than the mother of all inconveniences for Sydneyites. As for the media, they are hoping for the kind of dramatic stories and photos that sell papers. As the industry says – "if it bleeds, it leads”.
For the cops, APEC is a vision of the world as it should be. Expanded powers, new equipment, media support, and maybe a chance to try out new toys like the water cannon.
The warnings and hype about ‘violent’ protests mask another agenda in which politicians and certain elements in the media stigmatise the very notion of protest, and by creating and reinforcing an association between mass protests and violence, they seek to de-legitimise the former. Public protest is the right of all Australians. Pollies may not like it, and it may not sell many papers, but it’s part of what democracy is all about.
And we think Ben has a point."
Where indeed is the specific 'police evidence to the court that a protest march would cause unprecedented violence'? It wasn't in the submissions by the barrister for the Police Commissioner between 10.30am - 11.30 am this morning to this writer's certain knowledge while present in court. If there was such evidence the barrister would have been parading it and pressing it home.If it were categorically an inevitable result of a march to a police barrier at King/George of unprecedented violence, then surely a march along Park St to Hyde Park (a route in fact supported by the Police Commissioner in the court today) would result in at least a comparable risk of violence, in which case the police would never support that either? It's totally illogical. The police actually admitted in the witness box they had no evidence of violent tactics of ANY of the 30 or more affiliated Stop Bush Coalition groups including The Greens party, teachers and other civil society groups.
If the ABC or the reporter can't produce that evidence by the police to the court the protest march "would cause unprecedented violence" the journalist should resign and the ABC should make a retraction and correction of legal misreporting.
In fact we are advised that when GW Bush was here last in October 2004 an anti Bush rally achieved 5,000 attendance which was in the manageable range from what we heard in court today from Judge Michael Adams. But he obviously thought the huge publicity being given to the APEC event meant it would be bigger this time.
He was greatly influenced by the more confined space of George St compared to Park St.
On balance this writer favours the police option of travelling down Park St and making that decision as soon as possible to promote it far and wide in order to maximise the turn out to embarrass both George Bush and John Howard. Not because we think the Stop Bush Coalition has anything to be guilty or fearful of as regards their own supporters and the mainstream public supporters. More for practical political reasons to keep it smooth and effective, and to sideline the trouble makers who could be attracted to such a bold or sexy march now that the police have committed to a road barrier. It would be a total tragedy to conflict with the police when GW Bush and Howard are the real problem to focus on.
Lastly, though the police won their court action today, the court conspicuously did not award costs against Bainbridge and Stop Bush Coalition, nor did the police lawyers make the mistake of even asking for costs. Because they knew they were in a pre meditated mugging of democracy and the court and everyone else seemed to know it.
By the way the court was packed with onlookers too but you can't take pictures up there.
The ABC seem to have mis reported the Supreme Court proceedings of NSW Police Commissioner v Alex Bainbridge matter no. 030096/07 before Judge Michael Adams at 7.00 am this morning in Court 10a of the Common Law Division of the Administrative Law List. Having said that their 1 pm report by their police reporter seems more accurate.
These misreports were at 12 noon and World Today bulletin in these two respects:
1. The evidence to the court from two senior police especially Chief Superintindent Steve John Cullen, Commander of the Riot and Public Order Squad, amounted to a POSSIBILITY of violence. It was NOT ever submitted there was a PROBABILITY of violence.
Rather the issues of public risk appear to be around a POSSIBILITY of a splinter group might seek to hijack the event.
Whether this is being said outside the court to the media by the police/govt spin doctors is uncertain, but it wasn't the evidence in the court attended for 4 hours this morning by this writer, and as a trained solicitor observer.
2. The change in protest march route was caused by the police and not a back down on the intention of the Stop Bush Coalition to march into Martin Place. The police barrier at the corner of King and George St was only advised by the NSW police in the last day (4th Sept) to the protest group Stop Bush Coalition. This police barrier across King and George IS THE CAUSE OF THE CHANGE IN ROUTE. The judge admitted this morning he has no power to rule on that barrier given the new police APEC legislation. There is thus no pre emptive buckle by the protest march organisers. Once they became aware that the Supreme Court had no power to decide on the legality of the police barrier at King and George St under "extraordinary, unprecedented" APEC police powers, Bainbridge and others decided to march to the barrier "hold speeches and disperse from there". This apparently is to highlight their intention to take the protest march past the highly "symbolic" US Consulate and War Memorial to protest agaisnt the Iraq War now thwarted by oppressive laws.
Apart from these important clarifications note also
A. The barrister for the NSW Police Commissioner thus applied for a second different order of the court to prohibit this new march route to the King/George St barrier. This will be decided on at 2pm today.
B. In police evidence it was admitted in court that there was no evidence of any of the 30 odd groups including Greens, teachers, others have any involvement in violent tactics. In this sense the organisers and the 30 affiliated groups came out of the hearing this morning smelling like a bunch of roses in terms of their own character and commitment to peaceful protest.
C. In submissions on the so called potential for crowd crush at the King/George St crush the judge noted the crowd estimates are anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 which affects his assessment. In submissions by barrister Bozic for Council for Civil Liberties acting for Bainbridge, it was pointed out there would be plenty of warning at the start of the march of a halt at King and George, also plenty of points of egress at Park St, Market St and west along King St toward Darling Harbour. The Barrister for Police argued inter alia that the Hilton Hotel is a declared APEC area in George St along the route.
D. It seems very likely to this writer that the police commissioner will get their order against the second march proposal to the King/George St barrier. But as the barrister for the Police said, the commissioner even today would take an application for a march from Town Hall along Park St to Hyde Park in some fashion.
We suspect this is what is likely to happen but time will tell sometime after 2pm.
Today The Australian carries a worrying story about up to 9 missing rocket launchers on page 1 of The Australian here: John Lyons: Just who has missing weapons?
Only SAM's editor wrote abou this very real worry for all Australians of whatever pursuasion back in May 07 here:
This is a press release we noticed today from the legal authorities posted on
Melbourne Indy Media a few days ago relating to a high profile mainstream media
report in early April 2007:
charges over stolen rocket launchers This is a
joint Media Release between the AFP and NSW Police.
As a result this report from the Murdoch press around the same story
We also wrote about a real worry for public safety which again has nothing to do with usual public protest, and that is the petrol tanker scenario, with an accident like this one in Rockdale some 5 years back literally melting the tanker in half
Picture: Truck accident in Rockdale about 5 years ago.
Images taken by this writer as a local resident/witness. If one looks closely at
the top image you can see a truck has flipped onto its side and is being lifted
about a metre aloft with wheels at right angle to the ground. It looks strange
because the heat of the fuel fire has literallly vaporised half the metal tank
on the trailer. No one was killed in this accident which in itself must have
been a minor miracle. There were some people sleeping in the burnt buildings
nearby at the time of the one vehicle accident at a sharp corner just before the
Note this pre publicity by the police and their captured political
representatives in State Government in the press today:
This writer spent 2 years on Bondi Safety Committee 1996-97 as an elected
local councillor and we learned to never let the police set the tone of pre
event publicity. The principle looks the same today even as big as the APEC
conference will be in Sydney in September 2007.
Police inevitably predict aggressive clashes with the public and suggest
criminal behaviour by protesters which is the police paradigm and in fact what
they plan for. This has the effect of promoting their own importance and budget
in a highly convenient fashion for the bureaucracy. It is also self
fulfilling prophesy because the minute number actually looking for sport at the
police expense take it as an invitation to come on down and box on.
In a sense they all get what they want at the expense of the broader public.
But there is a much more serious aspect of distraction from real risk profile
for such an event.
What worries this writer most is not loud ferals, even pushy ones,
or mindless street violence. And certainly not organised recognised non govt
groups who never want the reputation for violence. What worries me, and should
worry everyone not least Big Media and Govt:
1. is those 7 or so missing rocket launchers reported in the Murdoch
press and media release of the federal/NSW police. Still missing?
2. Canberra is set up for gatherings away from the largest centre of
population, not just for one offs like APEC, but to avoid opportunistic coups
via a big rally taking over the parliament house (theoretically possible in
Sydney of 4M but not Canberra).
3. Is Howard secretly hoping there will be an attack to get votes in a
4. The petrol tanker scenario. See these pics above of a truck accident
in Rockdale 5 years back we locals of the time witnessed - large volumes of
fuel and a spark can destroy anything, including melt the tanker in half, like
a hot knife through butter. That's scary.
None of these are protester related, marbles or stuff like that. Those
are so marginal and in truth this writer has never ever witnessed that
in 15 years of ngo activity as God is my witness, 6 or so arrests for peaceful
protest without conviction, and solicitor now. That said, we don't like seeing
anyone get hurt, democracy activists police or anyone. For moral reasons but
also quite practical - draconian blow back by the system. Gandhi is my way even
if we can't be a saint like him.
We were quite surprised indeed to read the quite calm and brutal article in
the Herald recently on the history of lethal attacks on political
leaders. This was suggestive of activity way beyond the aims or objectives of
the local ngo movement I've known this last 15 years in Sydney. Here is the
reference, and we had to wonder how responsible the article was but here it is
anyway relying on the Herald as precedent:
July 2007 - 7475
April 2007 - 12,087
March - 6,684
February - 5,372
January - 2800
For most of August 07 when we checked our daily statistics counter it invariably said we had 1, 0, 0, 1 etc "page views" for the preceding day. Yet our monthly total stayed up close to 9,000 views for the month (just under). This is simply impossible. If the daily report was accurate we had only 30 page views for the month but the monthly counter showed no such thing.
Then just as APEC kicked off 2 days ago 1st Sept 07, magically the daily counter seemed to revive and as you can see in the graphic screenshot above it was a decent 145 for the day on an upward trend. One does wonder what the authorities have been up to with their well known cyber monitoring and one presumes of the media sector as per past decades re the govt broadcaster ABC.
We notice these suggestive reports of vigorous cyber intrusions by the intelligence agencies, which we don't necessarily criticise if it really keeps people safe but we do if they are causing a vandalistic nuisance to our daily counter, that is, legal democratic activity (speaking as a solicitor in NSW):
Concern over how AFP got comments, p7, August 2nd 2007 Sydney Morning Herald (seemingly offline)
Secondly we need to clarify that Sydney Alternative Media (SAM) here, as it plays an increasing role in community media, has no legal or commercial or editorial relationship with Alternative Media Group (AMG) who publish the City Hub/Bondi View/Sydney City News, or IMC/SIM (Independent Media Centre/Sydney Independent Media).
Even so in the spirit of capacity building of community media generally we hope and trust these remain viable and effective in a robust and diverse sector.
Lastly, in our piece yesterday about lame duck president George Bush (which it might be noted still has until January 2009 to wield power - represented by a yellow duck cartoon figure in chalk) we found the old axiom about doing media and promoting democracy to be true: A snot nose News Ltd security guard falsely claimed protection of the Privacy Act in a public street and sincerely offered to punch our editor if he took a picture of him or their building.
At Fairfax on the footpath next to Darling Park precinct the 4 scrambling security guards were far more professional, but also nervy with adrenalin after all the hysterical big brother security hyperbole by the federal and state govt. Never was a stick of kids play chalk so threatening to institutional power it seems. How ironic and magnificent that in the computer age that freedom of speech via stone age scribbling could be so subversive.
As an after thought we started scribbling "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq" much like the quack quack quack you would expect of a duck, and now fiction has resembled fact with GWB making a stopover there for 'a council of war' on the way to Sydney by 10 pm Tuesday 4th Sept 07 tonight Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).
My gratitude to the NSW Law Society and their membership card for their professional embrace which surely prevented excessive force in both cases ... in defence of democray no less.