At least 100 Indigenous people were arrested in Alice Springs during "military-style" police raids on the evening of April 3, according to an April 4 media release issued jointly by Vince Forrester, an elder of the Mutitjulu community at the base of Uluru, Greg Eatock from the Sydney-based Aboriginal Rights Coalition and Marlene Hodder from the Alice-based Intervention Rollback Working Group.
The police raids targeted alcohol consumption in Aboriginal town camps "prescribed" under the federal government's "emergency" intervention onto the Northern Territory. "I drove past Hoppies town camp last night and saw police cars with a spot light shining into the bush. It was like they were hunting for kangaroos", said Hodder.
"While most of those arrested have apparently now been released, someone tell me this isn't apartheid", said Eatock.
Under the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, approved by both federal Coalition and Labor MPs last August, 50% of welfare payments to Indigenous people in the NT have been "quarantined" for spending on food. Bans on the consumption of alcohol have been imposed on Aboriginal communities. All of the measures authorised by the legislation were exempted from the federal Racial Discrimination Act (1975).
"This legislation and government action is a form of terrorism used specifically against our people. They are entrenching racism with these actions", said Forrester. "I have had a shotgun pointed at me by police as part of a clear strategy of intimidation.
"Alice Springs now is full of many people who, because of 'welfare quarantines' cannot afford to get back to the bush. Only certain shops in town can accept the invasion tickets [food vouchers], and these same supermarkets are making big profits by selling alcohol for any remaining cash. They exercise no duty of care while it is the Aboriginal people who are being punished."
Forrester will be speaking about the negative impacts of the NT intervention on his people at a public forum at the Redfern Community Centre in inner-city Sydney at 6pm on April 14.