On March 31, a group of Christian peace activists from the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective entered a secretive military base on Swan Island off the coast of Victoria. Swan Island is a training base for Australia's elite SAS soldiers, who play the most active combat role in Australia’s deployment to Afghanistan. The activists wanted to shed light on the brutal ongoing occupation and war in Afghanistan. They switched off power to a satellite dish and one sector of the base: a symbolic act to call on the government to “hit the emergency stop button” on the war.
Sam Watson, Aboriginal community leader and Socialist Alliance senate candidate for Queensland, spoke at a May 19 rally outside state parliament. He called for the sacking of police commissioner Bob Atkinson; the charging and conviction of police who kill Indigenous prisoners; for investigation of police to be carried out by an independent, community panel; and for a new Royal Commission into Black deaths in custody.
Hundreds of Tamils turned out in Sydney’s Martin Place on May 18 to mark the first anniversary of the Sri Lankan army’s capture of the last bit of land held by the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country. In driving rain, families lined up to place petals in front of a statue of a grieving mother. They heard from community speakers, the Greens, the Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) and the Socialist Alliance.
“One of the great scandals of Australia's history: Aboriginal labour in the 20th century”, was a the title of a lecture by Dr Ros Kidd in the Queensland Trades and Labour building on May 20. The Alex Macdonald Memorial Lecture attracted about 80 people. It was organised by the Brisbane Labour History Association and sponsored by the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU). Kidd's latest book, Trustees on Trial, documents the abuse and misappropriation of Aboriginal wages during the last century. "The fight for justice is still going on”, Kidd said.
Five hundred farmers from the Darling Downs agricultural region attended a protest meeting at Cecil Plains, west of Toowoomba, on May 19. They protested against the expansion of coal seam gas mining on their properties. The May 19 Courier-Mail said the farmers called on the state government to place a moratorium on mining development while its environmental impacts are properly assessed. The protesters surrounded a paddock with a one-kilometre barrier of farm machinery in a demonstration of their abilityto stop the mining companies from entering their properties.
US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh told an audience at a journalism conference in April that American soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan, a May 12 Rawstory.com article said. Hersh helped break the story that US jailers were torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In 1969, Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre by US forces in Afghanistan. At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Hersh said US forces are engaged in “battlefield executions”.
A customs officer at Melbourne airport has said the passport of the Australian founder of Wikileaks will be cancelled “soon”. Julian Assange, formerly from Melbourne, now stays in several countries while running the high-profile Wikileaks website. He usually avoids publicity, but became famous in April when his site released a classified video of US forces laughing after killing 12 people in Iraq, including two staff from the news agency Reuters.
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Veteran left-wing academic and author Noam Chomsky was banned from entering Israel on May 17. Chomsky, a strong critic of Israel and US foreign policy, had been planning to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University in the Israeli occupied West Bank. On May 18, English singer Elvis Costello announced he was cancelling two planned gigs in Israel, citing the “grave and complex" sensitivities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, Christian Science Monitor said on May 19.
MELBOURNE — Protesters added their voices to the international day of solidarity with the democracy movement in Thailand on May 20, gathering outside the offices of Thai Airways. May 20 is the anniversary of the end of Black May in 1992, when the Thai government used the military against thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The rally demanded the military end its repression, not just for the sake of Thai workers, but because it gave confidence to other governments to use force against workers everywhere.