Refugee rights activist contests ‘incitement’ charge

Refugee rights activists outside the court last November. Photo: Refugee Action Collective (Victoria)

The Refugee Action Collective (RAC) has organised a rally for January 27 outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court, where activist Chris Breen faces a charge of “incitement”.

The charge arises from a car cavalcade organised by refugee supporters on April 10 last year. The cars, which had messages calling for the freedom of detained refugees written on them, were driven past the Mantra Hotel where 65 refugees were imprisoned.

The car cavalcade was chosen as the form of protest because it was COVID-safe. Nevertheless, the police chose to regard the event as illegal under Victoria’s COVID-19 emergency regulations and 29 people were given infringement notices with a fine of $1652 each, bringing the total to nearly $50,000.

Most of those who were fined intend to challenge the fines in court.

Breen was arrested at his home before the cavalcade started and taken to Preston police station, where he was held for nine hours. The charge of “incitement” is based on the fact that he publicised the convoy on Facebook.

The use of an incitement charge in this way is a new and worrying development.

RAC spokesperson David Glanz said: “This is a dangerous precedent that could be used in future against trade unions, or against any protest from climate strikes to Black Lives Matter protests.”

[The rally will begin at 8.30am on January 27 and will be COVID-safe. Participants are asked to register here.]

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