By Alex Bainbridge
MELBOURNE - Police were out in force with batons and riot gear for the second Student Day of Action on April 15, after having arrested a number of activists in early morning raids the day before.
Five members of the International Socialist Organisation were arrested and charged on April 14 over the March 26 protest. In coordinated raids in four suburbs, sledgehammer-wielding cops burst into homes and detained seven people.
Five ISO members were later charged with various offences including unlawful assembly, hindering police and an obscure common law offence arising from the release of students from a police van on March 26. Two non-members of the ISO were released after questioning.
The houses were all thoroughly searched, and personal possessions were seized, including ISO membership lists, personal notes and diaries, and other material deemed "subversive", including a Melbourne University student newspaper.
The raids appear to have been timed in the hope of disrupting the next day's rally. Student activists also say the arrests are politically motivated, as the same charges could have been laid against hundreds of participants in the March 26 demonstration. Most of the mass media accused the ISO of initiating "violence" on March 26.
Democratic Socialist Party national secretary John Percy condemned the Kirner Labor government for permitting the raid. "The Kirner government and the ALP are going along with attacks on education standards and students' living conditions, yet Kirner mobilises the state machinery for a dawn raid on student protesters nearly three weeks after the event", he said. "It certainly shows what the ALP's priorities are, and where their loyalties lie - certainly not with the unemployed, workers and students."
The 1000-1500 protesters on April 15 faced about 400 cops, while a police helicopter hovered overhead. After listening to speakers on an open platform, the protesters decided to march around the city. Speakers supporting a peaceful march were well received.
Cops lined the front of almost every building as the protesters made their way to Russell St police headquarters, where most of the students offered unsuccessfully to turn themselves in over the March 26 protest.