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