APEC security: treating protesters like terrorists

April 14, 2007

While NSW police minister David Campbell has inspected the new APEC command in Sydney — in which the state government is wasting millions of dollars — anti-war, environmental and workers' rights activists are preparing to send their message to US President George Bush, PM John Howard and other APEC leaders in Sydney in early September.

"Millions of dollars are being spent on this so-called 'anti-terror' exercise, but for what?" asked Alex Bainbridge from the Stop Bush Coalition, which is organising major protest activities at the time of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

"Given the amount of money being spent on anti-protest policing, it would seem that the US and Australian governments are more worried about ordinary protesters than any supposed terror threat", said Bainbridge, adding that "over-policing peaceful protests is an assault on democratic rights".

Referring to the "police overkill" at February protests in Sydney against visiting US Vice-President Dick Cheney, Bainbridge argued that "the whole exercise is designed to intimidate ordinary people from joining the protests".

Protesters are expected to join the demonstrations for a variety of reasons. Bainbridge explained: "There's widespread opposition to the sorts of policies that Bush, Howard and many of the regional leaders want to push through APEC, and large protests are expected against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and against the sham 'solutions' to global warming that will be proposed at the summit", said Bainbridge.

"But the NSW ALP, along with Howard and the rest, don't want that to happen. They would prefer to disrupt the demonstrations and then blame the protesters."

Bainbridge said that so-called anti-terror and public order laws give the authorities even greater power than they previously held. "Protests can be caught under laws where a police officer can say that there is a risk of public disorder, and then lock down an area for 48 hours and demand that people give their names and addresses. This is treating ordinary protesters like suspects or terrorists.

"Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales says that the laws relating to terrorism are so ill-defined that even a long-running industrial dispute, such as a nurses' strike, could be deemed to be creating 'a serious risk to the health or safety of the public' and thereby break the terrorism laws.

"At the same time, the Oxford Research Group, a British think tank, is warning that the 'war on terror' is increasing the liklihood of more terrorist attacks." According to the ORG, "treating Iraq as part of the war on terror only spawned new terror in the region and created a combat training zone for jihadists", and the US-NATO war in Afghanistan has led to the resurgence of the Taliban.

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