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Issue 574, 5 October 2007 - All unions should back the Greens

NSW police discredited as APEC dust settles

IT WILL be no surprise that a motion put to the NSW Parliament to hold an inquiry into the most aggressive policing operation seen at a Sydney protest for years, was defeated.

The defeat was because of the combined vote of the government, coalition, Fred Nile's group and the Shooters Party.

The call for the inquiry was backed by civil liberties groups and Paula Bronstein, the New York-based photographer whom many millions of people saw thrown to the ground during peak-time TV bulletins.

The Parliamentary seal of approval to the aggression of APEC policing backs up the "Mission accomplished" claim by the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma.

How his media advisers must have winced when they realised that the last person in the public eye to utter that phrase was a US President who had just invaded Iraq.

From a "national security" point of view, ABC TV's The Chaser's War on Everything showed how incompetently the security really was. All show and no substance.

Despite throwing reporters to the ground, punching people while restrained and aggressively arresting an accountant friend of right-wing columnist Miranda Devine, the issue which got the most coverage was the number of police not wearing identification badges-itself a breach of police regulations.


Badgeless police

NSW police commissioner Scipione's excuse for why the police were not wearing their badges was ludicrous.

He variously claimed that the velcro ID tags came off during scuffles (at the beginning of the march?); that they were deliberately taken off to prevent them being used as weapons (the smooth side, or the harsh velcro side?); and that badges stuck on with a pin could have been taken off and the pin used to prick a police officer.

Scipione's internal police inquiry into the police found that nothing was wrong.

Following the "inquiry" and suggestions that only a small number of police refused to wear badges, Human Rights Monitors arranged to have published the photos of more than 200 officers who were not wearing badges-available at www.responsiblepolicing.org.

The media focus on aggressive policing and the role of the Public Order and Riot Squad put clear pressure on those responsible, indicated by the ever-increasing chorus of nervous praise for the police.

The police commissioner, police minister, premier and the prime minister tripped over each other in shrill praise, ranging from Scipione saying that he was the proudest police commissioner "in the world", to the prime minister who said that he endorsed "every action" of NSW police.

This phrase was repeated as evening TV news showed people being pushed to the ground and punched by police.

Except for one isolated person who was unknown to protest groups, no one was arrested for serious offences.The charges of the remaining people arrested-hinder, offensive behaviour, resist arrest, offensive language-are the offences for which protesters are charged when the police can't think of anything else.

Within days of the protest, complaints were made about the same Public Order and Riot Squad by a group of workers at Seven Hills about a small protest against the alleged failure to pay superannuation by their employer.

Likewise, people were arrested for "alleged offences."

Only time will tell whether-like the Cheney defendants-the courts are not prepared to go along with this nonsense.

Dale Mills is the coordinator for Human Rights Monitors, and writes in a personal capacity. Human Rights Monitors had 30 observers at the APEC protests.

By Dale Mills