Queensland riot squad condemned
By Bill Mason
and Kerry Vernon
BRISBANE — The Queensland Civil Liberties Council has condemned the introduction of a new riot squad to deal with street offences in the city and Fortitude Valley malls as a return to the Bjelke-Petersen days of "brute-force" policing.
The formation of a Public Safety Response Team of 25 specially trained officers, equipped with batons and riot helmets, was announced by assistant commissioner Greg Early and Lord Mayor Jim Soorley on February 4.
Soorley said thugs and hoods were threatening Brisbane's reputation and would be removed from trouble spots. He said the Valley violence was not a racial issue.
However, introduction of the squad follows a campaign in the mainstream press, led by opposition police spokesperson Russell Cooper, alleging that gangs of mainly Aboriginal youths are on a crime spree in the malls.
Cooper said that Queensland is gripped by a spreading reign of terror by gangs of mainly Aboriginal youths.
Aboriginal Legal Service vice-president Sam Watson said that it was racist to blame Aboriginal people for violence in the Valley mall. "We are concerned that this campaign of public vilification of Aboriginal people is being carried out not to serve the interests of the people who use [the Valley] but to serve some sort of racist attack on Aboriginal people at large.
"There may be people in the mall causing problems, but they are being a problem because of other reasons, not because they are Aboriginals. The problem is chronic unemployment."
The Democratic Socialist candidate for Central in March Brisbane City Council elections, Susan Price, condemned the formation of the special squad as "police state tactics."
"Aboriginal youth are being blamed in a racist campaign against street offences, most of which are merely arrests for alleged drunkenness. Mayor Soorley is aiding and abetting this campaign, which will primarily be aimed against homeless youth, whether Aboriginal or white.
"If the public money to be spent on this show of force were redirected to providing proper housing and entertainment facilities for young people, any problems could be tackled at the source."