Police attack peaceful protest

Issue 

BY FEDERICO FUENTES

PERTH — On July 25, police launched an extremely brutal attack on a peaceful student protest. Thirty-five students were assaulted with batons and squirted with pepper spray.

The students had gathered at Curtin University to voice their opposition to proposals by the federal government to further deregulate university tuition fees. Brendan Nelson, the federal minister for education, was visiting Curtin to launch a discussion paper on the proposals.

After a spirited rally, and being denied the opportunity to speak with Nelson, the protesters decided to obstruct the minister's car as he attempted to leave.

Police, Curtin University security guards and Australian Protective Services personnel immediately began throwing people out of the way. Shortly afterwards, without warning a member of the APS produced a can of pepper spray indiscriminately sprayed protesters. At least 14 protesters and one security guard were squirted in the face. Curtin Guild vice-president Rebecca Shumack had to be taken to hospital.

More police officers arrived, some without badges. Protesters were thrown to the ground and held in headlocks. One protester was slammed against Nelson's car by several officers. Finally, the minister was able to drive away without having to answer the criticisms levelled against the government's anti-education policies.

Following the attack, the capitalist media attempted to demonise the protesters, claiming that "out of control protesters" had beaten up one of the cops first.

From Green Left Weekly, July 31, 2002.
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