Protesting police racism and violence

Issue 

BY TONY ILTIS

MELBOURNE — On November 22, a noon protest rally will be held in the Footscray Mall to protest against police racism and violence against Muslim youth in the city's western suburbs. The protest is being organised by the Western Suburbs Community Coalition Against Racism.

The WSCCAR was formed after a Muslim student of African origin was detained on October 7 by police on his way to university and kicked unconscious at the Footscray Police Station, with the police calling him a "terrorist" and referring to him as "Osama bin Laden".

This incident, like many others, was reported to, and is being investigated by, the Ombudsman's office. However, it also catalysed a number of young African-Australians to initiate the WSCCAR with the support of the Somali Community of Victoria, the Socialist Alliance and the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

The November 22 rally will be addressed by religious leaders, civil rights lawyer Rob Starry and speakers from the Somali, Lebanese, Vietnamese and other ethnic communities, the CFMEU and the Socialist Alliance. The protesters will then march on the Footscray Police station where they will be demanding an end to racial profiling, religious persecution and police attacks on youth.

Linda Waldron, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the federal seat of Gellibrand, highlighted the role of both politicians and the media. "We are seeing it internationally, nationally and locally", she told Green Left Weekly. "We see it in the war propaganda used to justify the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. We see it in the demonisation of boat people. We see it in the terrorism hysteria being whipped up by the media and the taxpayer-funded 'Be alert! Don't be alarmed!' campaign, encouraging people to view suspiciously the Muslim section of our community. Locally, we see it in the way ethnic youth are stereotyped. Asian youth are branded as drug dealers and Africans as being in gangs."

Her comments were echoed by WSCCAR members Liibaangeeddon, Axmed and Shirwa (who did not want their surnames printed). "World events have been the catalyst for the backwards misrepresentation of Islam", Liibaangeeddon told GLW. "We are witnessing a spillover of that dirt in Footscray."

Shirwa commented that he once thought that Australia was a peaceful place to live. "I'm now not sure if it's a country where I'd want to bring up my children", he said.

Axmed said: "Part of the democratic laws of Australia say that

everybody has a right to be what they want to be. What the

government is propagating is in total contradiction to this."

He noted that while racism was clearly being instigated by

establishment institutions such as governments, media and police,

he was fearful that it was only a matter of time before it

affected all Australians: "We are trying to

stop what is happening outside from dividing the Australian

community. The only way we can do that is by coming together and

fighting for our rights."

From Green Left Weekly, November 19, 2003.
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