Friday, April 24, 2015

Perth rally resists closure of Aboriginal communities, police harassment

Perth's rally against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities on April 23 began peacefully like any other.

True, there were more police there than was necessary, but not enough to indicate the scale of intimidation and recklessness that was to come.

After a smoking ceremony, Welcome to Country and cultural dancing, speakers began to address the crowd in front of banners saying that "Sovereignty was never ceded" and calling for a stop to the forced closure of Aboriginal communities.

Elder Ted Wilkes congratulated participants for turning up and said this was the latest in a long line of attacks on Aboriginal people.

Seamus Doherty from the Plumbers' Union said that his union had passed a resolution in support of the campaign against community closures. He said his union would ensure that water was not turned off in the communities.

The message was clear as the crowd began to march out of Forrest Place towards Parliament House.

Police wanted protesters to march on the footpath, but the crowd spilled onto the streets saying "Close the gap, not our communities" and "Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land". Nothing could stop the passion to say that, after 227 years of genocide, enough was enough: the community closures had to stop!

"This is our land," they said. "Police can't tell us where we can and can't protest."

Instead of allowing the march to proceed safely, police repeatedly - but unsuccessfully - insisted on trying to break the crowd up. This included a reckless disregard for the safety of people on the march and was completely unnecessary in the circumstances.

This motorcycle cop was one of the worst, repeatedly driving his cycle into the middle of the crowd and refusing opportunities created to allow him to leave safely. Police horses also pushed into the crowd causing a number of minor injuries.

Without any sense of irony, police answered questions about what they were doing with the refrain that they were there "for your [our] safety"!

The marchers proceeded undaunted.

Upon arrival at Parliament House, the mood was vibrant. More speakers addressed the crowd but the police harassment didn't stop.

Mervyn Eades was arrested for protesting against police attempts to issue a move-on notice to another activist.

Police then held the crowd back as they went to support their comrade who was bundled into a police wagon.

However, there is nothing they can do to stop this campaign. Another international day of action in this campaign will take place on May 1.