Australian group Students for Palestine released the statement below on August 9.
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The Victorian Police and courts went to outrageous lengths to criminalise solidarity activism with Palestine on August 9. For the crime of attending a peaceful demonstration against Max Brenner chocolate store and its support for apartheid, four activists were snatched from their homes in the early hours of the day, locked in a holding cell, and made to pay a combined total of $16,000 in surety to be allowed to leave.
The four activists were part of the Max Brenner 19, peaceful demonstrators who were savagely attacked by police at a demonstration on July 1.
Some weeks after the protest the magistrates court imposed anti-democratic bail conditions on 11 of this 19, which explicitly denied their right to assembly by prohibiting them on the threat of months of imprisonment from protesting against Max Brenner.
This attempt to intimidate the Palestine solidarity campaign in Melbourne has taken place in the context of a hysterical campaign by Zionist organisations, the Victorian Premier Ted Bailieu, and the Victorian Police, to silence protest calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid Israel.
Today, the courts and the police went out of their way to try to punish these four activists by any means possible, when none have been convicted of any crime.
Indeed, no crime has been committed except to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. The four activists were denied their right to phone calls when placed in remand in an attempt to isolate and demoralise them. It was more than seven hours after their arrest that they were allowed to speak to their lawyers.
Once they were brought before a magistrate for a bail hearing, excessively punitive conditions were placed on their liberty for their alleged offenses.
The magistrate chose the harshest possible conditions for bail for the explicit purpose of preventing them from protesting at or even near Max Brenner.
Three were made to pay $2,000 in surety each to be granted bail. One was singled out for far harsher conditions on the basis that she has been a public spokesperson at these demonstrations.
For the crime of speaking their mind, they were made to pay $2,000 in surety plus another $8,000 the following week. A sum of money that is many times the maximum sentence for her alleged offence.
Once all four were granted bail on these conditions, they were further punished by deliberately delaying their release. Friends of the detainees have been made to wait over five hours to pay the surety for their release. Despite people being present at 5pm to pay for their release, it took until 9:30pm before a single detainee was let out. At the time of writing this report only two had been released.
It appears that in the eyes of the courts, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinians struggle for freedom is a heinous crime, while Max Brenner’s support for genocide and occupation is not.