BY TIM STEWART
In case you were wondering what to bring along to the protests outside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane on October 6, the Queensland goverment has issued a list of prohibited items under special police powers to "control CHOGM extremists".
Apart from slingshots, radioactive substances, and radio-controlled toys, the list of "no-nos" also includes walkie-talkies, alcohol, surf skis, crossbows, animal manure, placards with wooden poles, and even containers of insects.
Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson told the August 21 Courier-Mail that clothing such as balaclavas, gas masks and motorcycle helmets would also be seized if worn without a good excuse.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie added, "If you want to go in the Australian way to protest, you're not going to want a crossbow ... or bag of cow manure in your back pocket."
CHOGM legal observer and Council of Civil Liberties spokesperson Terry O'Gorman responded by saying "There shouldn't have to be a suspension of civil liberties just to allow 50 heads of government — some of whom who are no better than despots and dictators — [to] have a meeting"
The special police powers, modelled on the Sydney 2000 Olympics security plan, will be put in place at designated areas around Brisbane including CHOGM venues, host hotels in the CBD and parts of the Brisbane River and Southbank from October 1-10.
Also on the prohibited list are graffitti sprays, "animals or reptiles capable of causing harms", chains or locks, "handtools", "a thing of capable of being used to climb a barricade", glass or metal containers, "noxious or offensive substances" (although it is unclear whether this applies to police capsicum spray), "a thing capable of emitting a sound loud enough to disrupt CHOGM", "a thing capable of concealing any object in the above list".
Despite its best efforts to demonise protesters, however, the government's plans don't seem to be turning public opinion.
In a report obtained by the Brisbane Courier-Mail, and headlined "Please, no wack-a-thon" by that newspaper, research conducted by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has revealed a strong public sentiment against police violence at anti-globalisation protests.
"Australians do not want protesters to be belted by Queensland police at the forthcoming CHOGM," the paper stated. "Most people want police to be conciliatory rather than aggressive."
The violence used by police to put down protesters blockading the World Economic Forum last September doesn't seem to have done authorities much good, either.
The government's research found that "the Melbourne S11 images of police thumping protesters were frightening and [the public] would prefer that confrontation was handled without excessive force," according to the Courier-Mail.