A training exercise for police violence

Wednesday, December 4, 1991

The Aidex arms bazaar wasn't just an exhibition of military hardware. Police from around the country treated it as a training exercise, and their latest techniques were on display. In this department, little changes, it seems. Boots, fists, batons, abuse, and sexual harassment all remain standard issue in the police arsenal.
Sydney peace activist DAVE WRIGHT was among the hundreds arrested and bashed (in that order) in the Aidex protests, by what was one of the largest police operation in this country since the Queensland street protests of the late '70s. Arrested in an early clash, on November 24, along with nine others, and charged with the standard unreasonable obstruction and resisting arrest, he was later treated for concussion and severe bruising to the ribs, shoulder and back. He spoke to Green Left Weekly about the incident.

"I was involved in a peaceful picket at one of the three main gates to the Natex Centre. There had been little police presence during the day, and the 100 or so protesters had successfully stopped people from entering the arms exhibition, though others involved in a horse and dog show were allowed through.

"Police and picket numbers began to build up as a rumour spread that there was to be an attempt to get trucks through. Then, about 6.30 p.m. the police surged forward to create a cordoned area outside the gate. Not long afterwards, several trucks were driven out of the site, through the crowd. Several protesters were punched and kicked by police, and three were arrested.

"Then it became clear the police wanted to clear the picket. There were 40-50 Tactical Response Group officers with batons, and a large number of Federal Police. By about 9 p.m. I thought things would cool down a little, but the police moved to establish a barricade around the sides of the gate.

"I was sitting in a group of protesters, and in the space of about five minutes I was transformed from passive participant to police target. The person sitting in front of me was punched, kicked and eventually dragged away by police yelling, 'Move, fuckin' move'. After him, I was next. Punching, kicking police pushed forward yelling 'Move, move,' but behind me others were pushing forward.

"I became the centre of a tug-o'-war between the police and the protesters. Then the cops threw me backwards into the crowd. At one point my legs were above my head and I was on top of people who had been sitting behind me.

"Then a senior police officer pointed at me and said, 'That's the one', and some cops grabbed my legs. I was flung over the top of the cordon and onto the ground, where I was kicked, punched and dragged away.

"As I got to my feet, I heard footsteps behind me, and as I looked over my shoulder I was king-hit on the jaw by a cop screaming, 'You fucking cunt'.

"He ran off, but I recognised him. Earlier in the evening he had chased and tried to beat a young woman. As he had not been wearing a or his number. He had obviously remembered me.

"After he ran off, I was clipped over the back of the head with a baton and thrown against the paddy wagon. I was hit twice more before being frisked. My complaint that I thought my jaw was broken was met by laughter from the four police near the paddy wagon. I was thrown in the wagon, where I was held for about three hours with four others who had also been bashed and kicked.

"One young man was streaming blood from what looked like a broken nose. Two more people were thrown in, including a young woman who had been stood against the paddy wagon and frisked by a male police officer. She was screaming and crying, and a couple of us yelled 'Rape is a crime'. They quickly put her in with us, and the charges against her were later dropped.

"From inside the wagon we could hear the police preparing to mount a major offensive. There were police dogs in the background, and one officer laughed, 'Good, we're going to use the dogs'.

"The riot police started banging their batons on their shields, and one yelled, 'Let's kick some arse', and another called, 'Let's get the hippies'.

"Then there was a break, and we heard the picketers discussing whether they wanted to stay and confront the riot cops. They voted to stay, and the cops backed off.

"We were held for about 16 hours, with no medical attention and were refused legal advice until just prior to our court appearance. My property was not returned for 24 hours. I was bailed on a $2000 surety, but the protester before me was put on a $1000 surety and instructed to report three times a week to his local police station in Sydney until his court appearance at the end of March. The charge: unreasonable obstruction.

"Many people were injured in the following days. At least 200 were arrested on November 25, but most were released without charge. The media carried details of injuries to police, but little was said about the injuries to protesters.

"The police operation was huge, and they seemed to be treating it as a training exercise. One plain-clothed detective said he had been brought in from Perth, and added that many more federal and state police had been brought in.

"I eventually went to a doctor, who said he had left Queensland to get away from this sort of police brutality. He said he was not surprised at my injuries, however, as he had treated homeless kids who had been beaten by police."

Issue