NSW police pay for wrongful arrest at APEC

March 14, 2009

NSW police have entered an out-of-court settlement with anti-war activist Paddy Gibson after he sued them for wrongful arrest during the APEC protests in Sydney in September 2007.

Police placed Gibson and 61 other activists on an "excludable persons" list during the "Stop Bush" protest, which coincided with the APEC summit. They were banned from parts of the CBD.

Many of those excluded, as in Gibson's case, had no criminal record or history of violence. A large number of them were Greenpeace activists.

Police claimed they arrested Gibson "by mistake". Gibson had been sitting in a cafe in Hyde Park following the protest when he was arrested by heavily armed police.

"The police were obviously very hyped up on the day", Stop Bush spokesperson Alex Bainbridge told Green Left Weekly. "There had been a huge build-up, particularly in the media and from the NSW parliament, to 'deal' with the peaceful protesters. They had to have arrests to vindicate their line that the protest would be violent."

Police violence during the protests has been well-documented. According to the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, international award-winning photographer Paula Bronstein was shoved to the ground by police with such force that she urinated on herself.

Two police officers held down a man while a third punched him in the head; other officers told camera operators from commercial media outlets not to take photos. All of this was witnessed and broadcast on commercial television.

Hundreds of police officers at the protests refused to wear visible identification nameplates, in violation police regulations.

Under the terms of the payout, Gibson is unable to reveal the amount he received.

Gibson told news.com.au on March 6 that he has "used part of the payment to fund my campaigning against the federal government's racist intervention in the Northern Territory and to support those who are still facing charges over G20 in Melbourne.

"So I can thank the NSW police for helping me help these causes", he said.

Perth.indymedia.org reported on March 10 that police had first visited Gibson's house "warning me not to join the APEC protest. Police files show that the only reason for this was a history of involvement in activist campaigns against war and for public education."

Gibson said: "This legal victory vindicates all those "proscribed" people, under the APEC laws, who refused to be silenced and it is further condemnation of the draconian approach taken by the NSW government through APEC."

Bainbridge told GLW: "The police operation at APEC was constructed from the outset as an exercise in intimidation. It failed miserably because activists rejected this and because people were so outraged by the measures the state took to stop people protesting."

Both Gibson and Bainbridge believe the debacle at APEC proves that police powers should be curtailed, not extended.

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