On March 2, the day that Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks was finally charged, activists in Geelong led a shackled and hooded figure through the city streets chanting "Free David Hicks!"
More than 50 people participated, including representatives from the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, the ALP, the Interfaith Network, Amnesty International, Geelong Trades Hall and refugee groups. Organised by the Geelong Anti-war Coalition (GAWC), it was the first public demonstration in support of Hicks in the town and received encouragement from passers-by.
Stuart Harrison from GAWC told the rally that Hicks had committed no crime under Australian or international law. "Hicks has been detained for five long years without charge ... the Australian government will not act for its citizens. David Hicks would be home tomorrow if the Australian government was prepared to demand Hicks's release."
Randall Aaps from the Geelong Interfaith Network noted: "Seventy years ago in Germany, 36 communists were jailed. The people of Germany did nothing. Then the Gypsies were jailed, trade unionists and then the Jews. This shows us that we need to act now … The treatment of David Hicks is unjust and we cannot stand idly by and allow our government to do this."
On the same day, 50 people gathered in Brisbane Square to demand the release of Hicks. Many more people paused on their way home to sign petitions and listen to speakers organised by Brisbane's Stop the War Collective as part of a series of speak-outs against Hicks's wrongful imprisonment.
Ross Daniels, senior human rights lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, told those gathered that the US and Australian governments claim to be bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq, but their treatment of Hicks and others at Guantanamo Bay contradicts these values. Daniels cited a list of concerns published by the Australian Lawyers Association, which calls Hicks's treatment unfair, unjust and a breach of the Geneva Conventions, and said it showed a disregard for international principles of law. He urged people to hound the Howard government to respond to these concerns.
Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett warned that the Australian government is clearly willing to sacrifice people for its own ends, not only Hicks but also others. Socialist Alliance Senate candidate and Murri activist Sam Watson noted that the Australian government had suspended Hicks's rights to serve the corrupt interests of the US administration, and must be confronted.
The rally was also addressed by Mark Gillespie from the Stop the War Collective and Lee Rush, whose son Scott is facing the death penalty for his involvement with the "Bali 9". Rush expressed his sympathy for Hicks's father, Terry Hicks, and for the rest of his family. Rush had tried to protect his son by forewarning the Australian Federal Police of plans to smuggle drugs. However, instead of acting to prevent the crime, the AFP simply informed Indonesian police. In so doing, said Rush, the AFP sentenced his son to death.
Terry Hicks will address Brisbane's March 17 anti-war rally, which is being organised by the Stop the War Collective. To get involved, phone 0401 586 923.