Analysis: Police Intimidate Refugee Protesters

In our last edition, we brought you an interview with Aran Mylvaganam from the Tamil Refugee Council, about the Murugappan Tamil family’s plight to return to Biloela. In this edition, we report on how the police respond to peaceful pro-refugee protesters.

On Friday 25 June, Victoria Police and their Public Order Response Team (PORT) aggressively intimidated peaceful protesters who had been protesting the imprisonment of the asylum seeker men being held prisoner in the Park Hotel in central Melbourne. After rallying outside the Park Hotel on Swanston St, Parkville on Friday evening in a protest organised by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, the protesters marched down to Trades Hall on the corner of Victoria St & Lygon St. The police accompanied them on their way down to the Hall, blocking incoming traffic with their vehicles and then formed up to prevent them entering Victoria St when they reached Trades Hall.

At this point the protesters began to peacefully disperse on the footpath outside Trades Hall on Lygon St. It was then that PORT police, who had surrounded the several dozen protesters in heavy numbers, suddenly kettled them in and proceeded to detain two of the protest organisers, telling them they needed “to talk to them”. Efforts by protesters to de-arrest the two organisers,  who were told by the cops they were “not obeying orders” about marching, were unsuccessful. When activists attempted to film this on their smartphones, the cops aggressively told them they were not allowed to as they were having “private conversations”.

One of the protest organisers was told by police they would be fined before being released. When the other detained person was unable to produce ID, they were escorted home by police from the protest in a blatant act of intimidation.

Finally, a third activist was chased by the PORT police from the footpath to inside Trades Hall itself, where they fortunately got away from them.

This blatant act of thuggery by police and the PORT of these refugee supporters is only the latest escalation of their intimidating behaviour and presence towards those peacefully protesting the incarceration of the men held in the Park Hotel. Anyone who has attended a protest or vigil outside the hotel in the past few months will be able to attest to the massive and disproportionate presence of dozens of armed police, police cars and vans, cops recording people with cameras, and even military-grade helicopters surveilling from the sky around the hotel. The police and authorities remained determined to intimidate anyone expressing humanity and solidarity with the innocent men still detained by the Australian government in the hotel.

We must continue to demonstrate our solidarity with the innocent men still held prisoner in the Park Hotel in every way possible until all of them are free. And we must remember that the intimidation that activists have been subjected to, is only a very small taste of the hell that these men have been placed in for years of their lives by the Australian state. Let’s keep turning out, and work to get our unions to turn out in contingents so we rally in bigger numbers.

Free the Refugees!