Hundreds of refugee rights activists stared down police intimidation to protest the continued detention of refugees outside the Kangaroo Point detention centre on August 15.
They called for the refugees inside the hotel prison to be allowed out on day release — a humane first step.
Protesters had planned to hold a sit-in on the Story Bridge, if this demand was not met. But a campaign of intimidation and threats of violence from Queensland Police meant this was not possible.
A post on the Refugee Solidarity Brisbane / Meanjin Facebook page said: "We’ve faced the full force of a state trying desperately to silence dissent — some protesters have been raided during the middle of the night, others haven’t been home since last week and the Attorney-General has used the court to get injunctions against several people forbidding them from going...
"The state has become obsessed with stopping this protest from going ahead.
"We expect any attempt to sit-down on the bridge to be met with a large police presence, including the use of chemical weapons and mounted police. With all this in mind, we don't think we can take the bridge as initially planned.
"It feels strange to announce publicly that we went up against the state and we lost. There’s the urge to somehow spin it as a positive, as a win, like we always planned this. But some things are just fucked."
The risk of the protest spreading COVID-19 was one of the excuses the government gave to say the protest must not go ahead.
However, as speakers at the rally pointed out, a football game with much larger numbers in a confined space was going ahead on that same day — without police harassment.
Refugee rights activists defied intimidation to march from nearby Raymond Park to the Kangaroo Point motel-cum-prison.
Police refused to liaise about the march logistics with the organisers who went out of their way to avoid a confrontation. Nevertheless, there were six arrests before the end of the day.
Police ended up blocking the road for a considerable time, using the excuse that they had to prevent protesters from blocking the road.
Refugees who spoke to the rally remotely thanked everyone for coming out to support them. They also pointed out that the government repression was directed against Australian citizens, not just refugees.
"Today, if you don't stand for refugees, tomorrow, [you'll] have to stand for yourselves," one said.
At one poignant moment, there was a call and response from the refugees inside to the protesters outside: "Eight years is enough — I can’t breathe — please help!"
More photos from the action can be seen on the Green Left Facebook Page.