BY JO WILLIAMS
MELBOURNE — Supporting a three-day hunger strike in defence of refugee rights on September 22, I was dismayed to be the target of some of the increasing physical and verbal violence against refugees and their supporters.
Jorge Jorquera, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Gellibrand, planned the hunger strike to highlight the conditions of asylum seekers inside Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne's west. Beginning on September 21, the protest received visits from many supporters before a man used his car as a weapon to threaten the protesters.
Attending the protest with my six-month-old son, I was shocked when the man shouted at us, "I will kill you". He then reversed his car at high speed towards us stopping within a metre of the pram. When I yelled out that he almost hit the pram (with the baby sleeping inside it), he responded, "I'll kill your baby".
The man continued to drive in circles around the hunger-strike site and several times threatened to smash his car into us. We managed to prevent a violent attack only by waving down some passers-by.
The attacker's comments indicated that his attack was directly linked to the political aims of the protest.
The attack finished when the man drove into the Maribyrnong detention centre. Detention centre administration later told the police that he was a "visitor" and had been told by the administration to "pull his head in".
We decided to postpone the hunger strike, fearful of a further attack. This incident just adds to the many reports of racist slurs and attacks that visitors to the hunger strike recounted. Since the terrorist attack in the US, and on the back of the Coalition and Labor campaign against refugees, many Middle Eastern and other ethnic communities in the western suburbs have suffered racist harassment.
Socialist Alliance will use its campaign for the seat of Gellibrand to fight for the closure of the Maribyrnong detention centre and highlight the injustice of such racist attacks on people in the western suburbs.