A protest planned for October 28 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit (CHOGM) received wide media attention on August 23. This came after The West Australian ran an article under the inflammatory headline “Protesters vow to break CHOGM security lines”.
A second article was titled “Rally would be test of new powers”.
These articles were in response to the announcement by the Chogm Action Network of plans to march directly to the Perth Convention Centre during the opening of the summit.
The state government has passed a law giving police special powers during the CHOGM summit. These include controversial “stop and search” powers, which allow police to search people with no reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Stop and search laws were rejected by the state parliament in 2010 when the Barnett government tried to bring them in as a general law.
Activists are also concerned about the banning of banner poles longer than one metre — that is most banner poles — and other items in the “security areas” defined under the law.
The march to the convention centre will enter a security area, but not the “restricted areas” that are closed to the public.
The West Australian claimed “protesters are on course for a confrontation with police at key CHOGM events, with plans for a 1000-strong march through restricted areas during the opening ceremony and Queen's motorcade”.
The article blurred the distinction between the “restricted” and “security” areas and ran the story with a photo of police violence against protesters at the S11 blockade of the World Economic Forum in 2000. It portrayed this as protester violence.
Other media followed The West Australian article including Nine news, several radio stations and an AAP article that was published online on several news sites.
In contrast to other media, which tended to follow the sensationalism of The West Australian, the Perth Voice published an article on August 27 titled “West beats up CHOGM protest”.
The Voice quoted police saying The West Australian “played it up a bit” and that “if they’re walking past [the convention centre] in a peaceful protest, there won’t be a problem”.
This reflects the tactics of the state government and police in relation to this protest, which appear to be to avoid making inflammatory statements that would generate media coverage and controversy.
This approach is designed to minimise public awareness that a protest will take place.
The authorities are still carrying the “big stick” of potential repression against the protest. However, they are mostly hiding it behind their backs instead of using it to intimidate.
This shows that a large and effective protest action is a challenge to the pro-corporate, anti-people agenda of the summit leaders. That is just one of the reasons that you should join the protest.
[Find out more about the Chogm Action Network at http://chogmprotest.org/]