Eyewitness account of police riot against peaceful Muslim protest in Australia

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Several protesters were injured. Photo by Josh Lee/Socialist Alternative (reproduced with permission).

I was attending a small but engaging rally against internet spying on September 15, organised by the Pirate Party and others at Hyde Park North, when seven police cars and four-wheel-drives drove into the park and about 20 police officers got out.

Protesting members of the Muslim community shouting “Allahu Akbar!”, marched into the park and police told us to hurry and pack up. More police ran, in phalanx formation towards the Muslim rally.

This rally of 300-400 people included women and children, older men and young Muslims, were protesting against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, produced in California, which one woman at the rally described as “disgusting”.

I spoke to three young women who were sitting calmly on the ground about why they protested.

“We had to protest this horrible film. If Jesus had been called horrible things in a film, Christians would have protested,” one of the women said.

“The police are being too heavy,” added another woman.

The police lined up, truncheons extended, behind and in front of the Muslim protesters. One police line then advanced on the protesters, yelling. The young men in the protest moved back. A woman with a pram hurried out past the cops.

“Let's get out of here,” said one of the young women I had been speaking to and they left to get out of the police cordon.

Police cars blocked off Macquarie Street, near the NSW Parliament, and parts of College Street. It was a huge, over the top, show of force by the police. I saw three large police dogs.

The police kept goading the protesters by shoving them back in coordinated waves of advance. The protesters were chanting through megaphones.

Then a bottle was thrown by a young man in the protest and the cops started firing pepper spray into the front row of the protest. They also sprayed it up into the crowd. There were cries of anger and “Down, down USA!” chants.

Some young protesters surged forward and the police used more pepper spray. One man was dragged off after he had an allergic reaction to the spray, according to one of the protesters. Two protesters were injured and taken to hospital, said a young woman.

A group of male protesters then formed into a circle, chanting through the megaphone.

They started praying, angry, but determined. The police stayed back as a police helicopter hummed overhead.

Onlookers came to watch the chanting, also watching the police. Young men washed their faces in the Hyde Park fountain, and came back to chant. I saw a young Muslim woman of high school age crying. The media focused on the most provocative fundamentalist placard, but I saw an older woman giving out a leaflet which said: “Islam = peace” and “Mohammed = humble”.

I met an Iraq war veteran at the rally who said he had left the army because of the crimes the occupation troops committed against the Iraqi people. He said that the community had the right to protest without police violence.

Participants in the anti-spying action filmed the police pepper spraying the protesters and the huge line of police.

One person who had marched with the rally since it started at Town Hall and said: “The police didn't let us march where we wanted to go.”

I think that if the police had left the protesters alone they would have marched, chanted and prayed in peace. Instead, the police goaded the protesters, in particular the youth, and so the police are responsible for the clashes that took place.

Their use of pepper spray and truncheons was extremely aggressive and unprovoked. There was no need to surround the rally and charge the protesters and there was no need for the police to come out in such massive force.

The police would be unlikely to have used this level of force against most other protests of 300 to 400 people. But Muslim protesters get different treatment.

Muslims have been scapegoated and criminalised by state and federal governments and the mainstream media. Muslim communities are the target of intense racism and have been made fair game in this country.

Now the protesters, not the police, are being blamed by politicians and the media of the 1% and even more fear and hate is being whipped up against the Muslim population.

We should condemn the police who brutally provoked these protesters and squandered thousands of dollars in a massive show of police repression in the heart of Sydney.

SBS reporter says: "The protests attempted to leave the park peacefully, when the police literally set upon them..."

POSTSCRIPT

This eyewitness account, written rapidly after the events on September 15 and based on what the author saw with her own eyes, has generated a large amount of comments, many questioning the account. Below is a comment from Rachel Evans responding to comments.

* * *

To anonymous Sun 16/09/12

Firstly if communities and groups want to protest with a day or two notice, they should be able to. NSW is the only state I know where protest groups need to put in a form into the police 7 days before the protest takes place, and get 'permission.'

It's designed to put groups off protesting. It's anti-democratic.

Not everyone knows how to go about getting such a form, or where to send it. A number of migrant groups I have come in contact with had no idea how to go about putting in such forms.

Such petty paperwork is designed to deter groups, and those using the argument 'they didn't put in the right paperwork' are missing the point. Muslims, Christians, eco-warriors, unionists, any group should have the right to protest without being set upon by police and their dogs.

I didn't agree with all of the placards at the rally. But French philosopher Voltaire was on the mark when he said 'I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.'

In an article ''Sydney riots' less about religion more about democracy' Green Left Weekly author Tim Dobson noted ' Democratic rights are just that. They aren't a tap to be turned on and off... What you think of the rally should be irrelevant when it comes to the question of whether it is repressed or not. Those who celebrate the crackdown are willing to put faith in the police and the state in general to determine what is a legitimate protest or not. That is a very worrying precedent.'

Read the full article here
http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52260

Finally, police were injured because they escalated a tense situation. A repugnant, Islamophobic 'Innocence of Muslims' video is released within the US which sparkes protests across the Middle East. Cops in Sydney come across a rally with impassioned young Muslim people who are then corraled and cornered, and whose children are set upon by police dogs.

Instead, if police had allowed the march to take place, without intimidation and harassment, and been calm and reasonable the situation would have been diffused.

But that would not have helped justify the war-drive and occupation the US and West have over the Middle East now, would it?

More on why US war crimes are behind Muslim, and Middle East anger here.
http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52268

Rachel Evans

From GLW issue 938

Comments

So, non-Islamic fascism is acceptable?

Several of the commentators here have ranted that they will no longer support GLW because it supposedly supports "Islamo-fascism". This article is about how the protest turned violent when the police attacked the protesters. So, those commentators accept police state action when it's directed against a group they have been instructed to hate. They accept fascism, basically. And they call the people that don't "useful idiots".

I'm amazed that GLW readers accept the myth of Islamofascism. Do these people also accept the claims of Green fascism, environmental fascism, and left-wing fascism generally, that are peddled by the same people on the conservative right? The people that claim that everyone to their political left is fascist, and the only solution is - a police state dictatorship?

Left-Muslim Alliance

During the 1979 Iranian revolution, the communist Tudeh party allied with Khomeini to oust the Shah. After Khomeini came to power, Tudeh was was repressed so forcefully that it was completely obliterated within few years despite surviving the repression of the Shah's SAVAK secret police.

Those who don't know history is doomed to repeat it.

because the few at the rally

because the few at the rally who support sharia law or something of that nature are totally in a position to take power tomorrow.

keep ur eyes & ears OPEN

I wasnt at the rally (even using the word *riot* loads public perceptiins, there was nothing remotely riotlike until AFTER police started to push back protesters).
I know this because I watched a 2 hour long video made by an independant bystander, who happened to b filming in Hyde Park, its available on Youtube.
As I understand it, a permit had been applied for & given for Sunday, but organisers realised it wld clash with funrun,& applied to change date, not exactly the actions of a violent mob?
Police refused date change, cos they werent able to mobilise their massive number of heavy duty response force in time, they EXPECTED confrontation.
The Video clearly shows how peaceful protest was, hilariously they werent even able to maintain consistent chanting like all of us lefties :-)
Video also clearly shows shoppers on footpath including young kids recording on their mobiles , clearly unafraid.
It was only AFTER the police blocked the progress of the marcb & started fullon pushback, riot squad storm trooper style, that things got ugly, THEN organisers tell women & children to go home,& still they just try to keep MARCHING, back to Hyde Park.
I'm not denying a HANDFUL of young men behave aggressively IN RESPONSE. But if u have ever been ursele to an almist universally peaceful rally, & then watch the TV footage, u will never again trust MSM coverage, they always hunt for the worst moments & they are showing the same few SECONDS of footage over & over as always.
What I also saw in video thats NEVER shown o TV was the aggressive behaviour of some police , who were restrained by other police, so out of control they were but that doesnt fit with the ANGLE of feeding anti-Islamic fear.
Re placard: did u all notice the child was carryiny it with the FRONT showing that we never get to see, I have no doubt they were given it by someone else trying to cause controversy.
I support GLW's choice to defend ALL democratic protest & personally, know J wld feel more in fear at any mainstream pub on any Friday or Saturday night.
Bigotry is being fed by ignorance & fear, if u value ur intelligent awarenss, read BETWEEN the lines & translate the words of escalation u hear on TV, Pax, Maree Robertson

I fully support Green Left

I fully support Green Left Weekly articles on this subject. I am bemused by all those calling the end of the progressive left. Perhaps they haven't been to any protests lately. Those of us who have clearly recognize the tactics of the right and the main stream media to put the onus for any violence back onto the protestors. We don't have to go back too far for recognition of this. The peaceful Occupy Melbourne protest violently disturbed be police thugs. The Invasion Day and 40th Tent Embassy protests exaggerated out of all proportion when any violence clearly emenated from the security staff and Federal police...No arrests. The protest in the desert called the Lizards Revenge against Uraninium mining. Corporate backed Police and Media units peddaled disinformation about people throwing things and Horses being deliberately hurt to justify the police intimidation and violence. ...I have video evidence of this which will show the lies. The Max Brenner QV square protest...later the protestors were fully vindicated in the courts. The Occupy Tent Dress stripped violently from the lovely lady wearing it. Whilst I have some issues surrounding the Left's overall response to the Muslim "Riots" in the method initially chosen to communicate solidarity there is little doubt in my mind that Marx would have approved. Long live community media we would be lost in right wing hysteria driven propaganda without it. Colin Mallett.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

who does all the vandalism? I have seen so many non anglo special/sacred places desercrated, everything from indian temples to aboriginal art sites, I havent seen one single church vandalised by abusive,disrespectful people, even the monuments to mass murderers placed in every town dont get abused, every non white aussie should ask themself, who are the people/nationalitys who abuse you the most, most anwsers would be the same, I personally have only ever been abused by anglo aussies, but there are great anglo aussies also, I think they are a minority aswell

Ridiculous

I used to spend my weekends selling Green Left Weekly in Parramatta mall although that was some years ago I stll have been a strong supporter, now I see you that you support Right wing Islamists I will never purchase another issue. What the hell happened to the left in this country? These rioters are reactionaries who are trying to intimidate rational people's right to criticise religion. If the Australian left is supporting religion over free thinking, well then the left is dead.

Prove it

……………Have to admit to being a bit sceptical about all the anonymous posters claiming to have been GLW supporters. A bit like all the anonymous posters claiming to be eyewitnesses to last Saturday's events.

here's proof

I know pablo, luke, michelle, tamara, and everyone from the early 2000s in Parramatta. I was also a delegate at the DSP conference in 2003 and spoke at the resistance conference. There's your proof mate, I've been a leftist for a long time, I will never support green left weekly again. Stop being gutless and show some pride in being a secular socialist and reject Islamic fascism. We don't pander to the Christians, why pander to Wahhabis?

Sell outs. Marx is rolling in his grave and you are happily pushing the opiate of the masses. Useful idiots.

Marx would agree with GLW

Browbeating others doesn't really work when you clearly don't know what you're talking about. Below is an article by Jeff Sparrow which mentions what Marx thought of an event with similar characteristics in his time - the Indian rebellion of 1857.

http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52294

Gutless?

You gotta love a "proud leftist" who accuses GLW of being "gutless" but doesn't have the guts to put his/her name to their comments. Yeah, it's really brave to slag off others under the safety of anonymity. You may have been around the DSP for a while but you obviously didn't learn much from the experience. Even if people are expressing views you find repugnant, you don't support the State repressing them. It's Solidarity 101.
Bronwen Beechey

Fake secularism

This article gives an eyewitness account of the rally that says police attacked what had been until then a peaceful protest.

I may not agree at all with the ideas expressed or some of the placards present at the rally, but I support their right to protest without being pepper-sprayed and attacked by the police.

If you are so "proud" of the cops for assaulting the protest so be it, but don't confuse your position with Marxism or secularism. It's appalling prejudice, pure and simple.

Violence is not Voltaire's legacy, Ms Evans and Mr Passant

Let me bgein by asserting that I am of the conviction that all people should be given the right to free speech, regardless of race, creed or political affiliation. I am of the persuasion that all citizens of Australia deserve the right to engage peacefully in protests at their own discretion. I also support a lucid and transparent system in which protests can be organised expediently, but also a system that gives the citizenry forewarning about any incovenience that may be caused by said protests. I also believe that the machinations of the state, namely our police forces, are prone to a propensity of over-exertion and abuse of their powers similar to their military counterparts. I also am of the opinion that the war being conducted by 'the coaltion of the willing' in the Islamic world is imperialist, and by virtue of this unjust. As a pacifist, I deplore all forms of violence and see no justifiable cause that legitimises the use of violence.

Clearly, the use of brute force by our police cadre is unacceptable, as evidenced by the latest protests held by a group of Muslim demonstrators in Sydney on the 15th of September. There is no questioning that this rally would most likely have been a peaceful rally had the police not oppressed these concerned citizens who were reacting to a long discourse of racial intolerance engendered by political authorities in Australia. Yet this rally, as supported by various witnesses from both sides of the protest, contained belligerents not only from the jack-booted police force but also from the antagonistic side of religious intolerance.

It makes me feel frustrated and betrayed to think that such prominent and respected luminaries of the left-alternative such as John Passant and Rachel Evans would undermine the efforts of countless jurisprudent and peaceful protestors by glossing over the duality of the violence meted out in these recent protests. By boiling down the complicated mise-en-scene surrounding these protests we are being presented with an over-simplified, irrational and insulting idealistic highground from which to stare at with lofty aspirations from the streets of our sad realism.

What of the innocent youths who were dragged along to these protests to bear placards that do nothing but incite racial hatred between muslims and the other racial groups of Australia? What freedom of choice is paraded when a 10 year-old is thrusted under paternal threat into the fracas of a conflict that could've killed him and his older sister, despite fleeing to his mother for succour? I wonder if these children, who are still forming their systems of social values and have yet to hone their own moral compasses will develop a strong sense of free speech from their parents, after being shown how to effectively brainwash children, turning them into agents of mindless hatred. This is not the message of Islam, and it is the actions of these few hate-mongering individuals that equally sustained the violent confrontation initiated by our criminal police force.

I would urge all left-orientated readers to reconsider their decision to take the self-righteous path of adhering to a strictly idealist interpretation of the recent events in Sydney. We all know that the current situation in the police force is unacceptable. We know that the media in this country is shamelessly warped with racial bigotry and censorship. Despite these outrages, we must not stoop to the level of these belligerents. By protecting this violent protest under the guise of free speech we are not only undermining the valiant work of those who regularly protest legally and responsibly, but are sabotaging the work of the moderate majority of Muslim Australians who strive tirelessly to create a peaceful relationship and dialogue with the myriad races and beliefs of Australian society. We need change, and we must preserve our democratic right to protest, but aligning ourselves with aggressors, whether bearing batons or throwing rocks is certainly not the answer.

Sincerely,

ML

Don't blame the parents

I agree with tony_i with regards to this post, however I would also like to add a point or two about paragraph 4 of ML's statement. This blame leveled at the parents of children holding placards at the protest sounds to me all too similar to blaming parents who doll up their 11yo girl in 'sexualised' clothing - this accusation generally comes from upper middle class mothers aimed at lower class parents, and does not take class difference and other social and ideological factors into account. Likewise here I think there are many factors that are not being taken into account. Like tony_i, I am not condoning the content of the placards, but I am seeing them in context (having also seen placards with statements like "Burn in hell baby murderers" outside abortion clinics, it doesn't seem so shocking to me perhaps). In this instance, I think it is a bit judgmental to suppose these placards' purpose was to incite racial hatred, I'd suggest their purpose was to express extreme anger and frustration at years of hurt and abuse.

In addition, there are other instances where parents' 'treatment' of their children has been used by the media/politicians to incite racial tensions in this country (...Tampa ...NT Intervention). Treatment of children is important, but we must be aware of how it is used by the ruling class to blame a race or religion - quickly do we forget how recently children were employed for low or no wages in industrialised nations, or how rife sexual abuse of children is and continues to be in Australia.

Rosa L.

("They f*ck you up your mum and dad, they don't mean to but they do")

Perhaps I lacked clarity in my previous article

Hello,

I have enjoyed reading the various comments I have received about my post, so thank-you for your feedback. I do agree with what 'tony_i' and 'Rosa L' have been espousing for the most part, perhaps I didn't demonstrate that clearly enough in my last statement. I think the crux of my argument was intended to be that irresponsible parenting is never justifiable, and that confrontation, regardless of the initiator, is very rarely sustained by the actions of a single group or individual and is therefore more complex than the one-sided perspective being portrayed by the reactionary right, or regrettably, some elements of the left media as well. This is not to say that self-defence should be viewed as an offensive action; I am under no illusions that there were people who genuinely feared for their livelihood in the actions of September 15th and these people should not be condemned for protecting themselves against police oppression. These people, who deserve our praise are what might be deemed as the genuinely oppressed, the people who deserve the full support of left-wing solidarity offered by such groups as SA.

However there were people there, certain individuals, that maligned the greater majority of rational protestors. These belligerent individuals have no interest in conducting a logical, rational and non-violent demonstration. It is these people who I fear are benefiting most from the blank-cheque being offered by John Passant and others on this thread. In the spirit of defending the egalitarian views of us lefties the investigative dissection of this rally is being neglected, and at worst, flagrantly undermined. I have the strong impression that the sole basis for this dogmatic reaction from certain left sources is based solely upon the testimonies of a few choice, biased eyewitness accounts, and of course, the opinions of the party hierarchy. This type of journalism is eerily similar in its ignorance to the reports filtering in from the consistently right-biased media of fairfax and their cronies. What I implore people to do is to take a more investigative approach to the recent protest, rather than to immediately react in its defence because we've all witnessed and experienced police oppression as a quotidian event in this country.

I'm not asking people to agree with everything I evince, only to consider that what we hear from all sources is not necessarily the supreme truth of the matter. There are multiple viewpoints and motives to any confrontation, and I fear that the support being garnered for this protest is concealing the violent actions of certain individuals who threaten to sully the noble work of those who entered this protest as thoughtful, peaceful and concerned citizens.

It is distressing for me to hear that a belief consistently being espoused by some members of the left adheres to the following mantra "violence is acceptable if it is given the right pretext or platform from which to launch". This atavistic and brutal idea of tit-for-tat is not acceptable, in my opinion, and without speaking for more than myself I can safely claim that there are members of the far-left who do not advocate this pugnacious method of ridding oppression, nor should it (in my humble opinion) ever be advocated. By labeling something as being oppressed does not vindicate violence as a means to an end. Any logical and rational person must see the contradictory nature of believing in such a tenet; the nature of being oppressed is not a concrete state, it is transitive and therefore cannot be assigned with lasting temporality. The moment a person raises their hand to strike someone else beyond their own self-defence is the precise moment that they themselves become the oppressor, the moment they become the monster they sought to slay. For this reason, I cannot condone the actions of those belligerent few who used September's protest as a vehicle for retribution against the police, and because of this I cannot condone the manner of the protest as a whole.

In response to Rosa L, specifically regarding the responsibility of parents, I am sorry if the tone of my article came off as being overtly preachy, far be it from me to tell others how to raise their own children. For the record, I am not a middle-class mother. I was raised below the poverty-line, by an unskilled tradesmen and a teacher's assistant. My parents instilled in me the concepts of universal brotherhood and basic principles relating to free speech and universal (and in my mother's case, female) agency.

I must emphasise that I strongly believe that basic parental responsibility must transcend class divide. This is a view opined by the vast majority of clinical and theoretical psychologists. My own parents did little to mistreat me, despite their meagre assets, and I was never crammed full of the ANZAC spirit as John Passant has implied (though I do acknowledge that of course there is a state sponsored construction that enforces this) nor was I ever taught that the land in which we live is ours by birthright. I'm not trying to say that my parents were perfect; naturally there are many things that I think they should've, would've and could've done differently. Notwithstanding this, I can safely say that they never put me in a situation that endangered my life. They never once forced me to adopt their religion. They always encouraged rational debate, and invited me to question any facts presented to me from any source. I wish that more children might experience such important lessons in their own childhood. Children from despotic patriarchal families involved in that protest, perhaps? For this, I owe my own parents an enormous debt of gratitude, one that I will never be able to repay.

I hope that this has clarified my stance somewhat. I fully respect other people's choice to defend the recent protests, despite it not being in accord with my own personal convictions. I for one see my own system of beliefs as strictly individual and not ever wholly conforming to any party's doctrine, yet I respect Socialist Alliance and their members for the firm beliefs that they have and share with me on many issues. This is but a mere divergence I think. For me, it is a question of motive and manner, and I suspect for others on this thread it is a question of the sacrosanct nature of protesting, regardless of who gets injured and incites violence.

I am sure that I will see you, Rosa, at many a rally in the future and we'll exercise our right to free speech in a non-violent demonstration.

In Peace,

ML

("An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind") - M. Gandhi

Police are bigots

The only place in the country this sort of abuse happens is in Sydney, the bigots need to think about that.

Voltaire: u r doing it wrong

ML:

you are wrong on 3 counts:

1. the protesters did not start the violence, the police did
2. holding a sign with a violent message is not an act of violence
3. there is no democratic right to protest if it does not apply to everyone. i don't like the signs some of the protesters were holding on saturday. i would have preferred the crowd to have been protesting against the politics of US imperialism rather than against the insults added to the injury. but so what? if we don't defend these peoples democratic right to march through Sydney saying whatever they want, we are giving the state the right to decide whether our protests are "legal and responsible".

Good to see GLW taking a stand

In the face of commentary by the media, government, police and by people posting on this and other articles, it is good to see GLW sticking by its guns and defending the right to protest. No protest should require a permit, when that begins, it is the beginning of curtailment of democratic rights. If you think the protesters should have 'asked for a permit' check this article out.

http://newmatilda.com/2012/09/18/did-police-use-proportionate-force-film...

It is really weird how people keep bringing up the few placards mentioning beheading and other terrible things, as though that was the entire protest. There were a small group of people with those sorts of signs, what about the other people at the protest who handed out leaflets stating Islam=peace? Those people don't seem to get any publicity. If you go to any rally you will almost always have a minority with idiotic signs that everyone else in the rally hates.

You can go on and on about what people are saying and how vile it is, but that does not take away people's right to say it. I hate anti-abortion advocates and their signs about abortion doctors going to hell, but I don't advocate cops bashing the shit out of them.

It is clear that the police had strong numbers at the protest from the start and were preparing for a confrontation, they created a situation where protesters reacted. Some protesters may have been assholes who responded in a violent fashion, but that does not take away the initial responsibility from the police for creating a violent situation. If there had not been a heavy police protest from the start the rally may have just gone on peacefully then dispersed. People need to differentiate between a riot where people arrive solely for the purpose of committing violence and destroying stuff on the one hand. While on the other hand there is a peaceful protest that turns violent due to a heightened tension and the attempt to break up the protest. The events on the weekend were obviously the latter. As far as I have read there wasn't any property damage at all, if this group of protesters were out for violence from the get go why didn't this occur? If you want a riot, check out this event that happened recently:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/wa-man-stabbed-7-arrested...

Where is the government condemnation of this event?

Just because you defend the right to protest does not mean that you support the message of the protesters. If there was a Nazi rally in my city next week I would not call in the cops, I would organise a counter demonstration. Giving the police and the state more power does not protect democracy, only organising ordinary people to exercise their rights does that...

Thank you green left

Thanks green left for providing some SANITY in the non-debate

Own up

Which one of you is Senator Brett Mason? Own up!

"Senator Mason: To move—That the Senate—

(c) condemns Green Left Weekly for its publication of articles blaming police for the confrontation that was instigated by violent protestors."

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Dynamic_Red?page=941.pdf

Tim Dobson

So your counter argument is

So your counter argument is that applying for permits is too hard and justifies major disruption to other citizens by blocking streets and carrying placards that fly in the face of what is a peaceful country.

Your other argument of the police funneled the protestors towards the the U.S embassy , are you trying to say despite worldwide protests focused on U.S embassies that this group of people had no intention of doing likewise ?.

You have managed to not just be biased but justifying that bias with more bias , well done .

Major disruption? Police experience?

Um....your 'counter argument' fails to explain whether you support the right to protest or not? Major disruption - what rot! The disruption, which was never major, only came after the cops over the top antics.

Re the cops, anyone with a bit of experience of protests know its hardly unusual for them to use all manner of methods to intimidate and provoke - i certainly saw it at APEC, anti-Bush, at various union pickets, and many more. But you seem to absolve the police of any responsibility whatsoever.

We are all "biased" - it's just that your bias seems to sit comfortably with the hysterical status quo, and GLW's bias stands firmly on the side of the oppressed. Good on GLW for this important eyewitness report (which has now seen a Lib in the senate attempt to have GLW condemned for daring print a different version of events to the mainstream media rubbish!)

Eyewitness Account Muslim Protest in Sydney

Rachel - you quote Voltaire
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"
Obviously the PROTESTORS do not apply this right to the people who made the film about Muslims.
Either everyone has free speech or no-one has free speech. VIOLENCE is never condoned.
ILLEGAL is illegal. These are facts.

Contradictions, no?

You are right that *some* of the protesters probably don't have the same view on free speech as GLW does - so what? We *still* defend their democratic rights - in fact, that is the only way to defend democratic rights and free speech principles, by supporting them for all, even those you disagree with and who may have vastly different views.

Also, free speech is always worth putting in context - for example Alan Jones used his 'free speech' through a racist radio mouthpiece, to organise a racist riot (he was never tried or faced anything like the hysteria from this protest). Compare that to a few stupid placards - sure, they are wrong (in my view), but hardly the same as hate speech echoed through the mainstream media.

Yes, violence shouldn't be condoned - and in this case the violence has come primarily from the police. The other violence, far worse, that should never be condoned, is the violence of war and occupation that has been inflicted upon many predominantly muslim countries - which is a very good reason many of these people are angry.

Illegal is *not* illegal - unless you think that the right of women to work should still be illegal? That is, laws change, and some laws are unjust and should be opposed. I think any law that restricts the right to protest is not a good law - i oppose it.

Random capitalisation … never a good sign

If you really believed in free speech applying to everyone you would defend the right of protesters to say what they want, even if they are opposing free speech.

The difference between us on the left and the power structures you support is that we're not going to pepper spray you or turn dogs on you as punishment for your anti-free speech views.

You are obviously wrong when you say violence is never condoned. The slaying of innocent Afghan civilians by diggers and other unwanted Western occupation soldiers is always condoned by our politicians and media. Along with innumerable other forms of violence dished out by the state and the ruling class.

Including the police violence on Saturday.

I have been a devotee of

I have been a devotee of Green Left Weekly for ten years or more. Rachel's article supporting the Islamo-Fascists who marched in the city on the weekend will make me think twice about putting my hand in my pocket the next time I see a volunteer selling GLW. I hope GLW survives but that article will have put a massive dent in its supporter base.

The idiocy continues

To all those saying " What if it was Christian evangelicals???" Surely the point is that this doesn't happen to them and won't. It does, however, happen to Muslim protesters, all the time. How come you can't condemn that?

To "the end of the progressive left". I'm glad your rationality leads to a rational support of police violence against Islamic protesters. After all it is rational to condemn hypothetical violence over the actual thing, right? The left hasn't changed, you just find it easier now to be a bigot, so you became one in the name of rationality. As for Marx, I guarantee he would say something more interesting than the bores and bigots that swamped this thread.

As for "DISGUSTING", I am sure the "Muslim community" would be so grateful for your support that is so deeply felt that you turn into a bigot when it becomes a bit uncomfortable for you. I think they could do without that type of support.

Tim Dobson

Making a crap film popular

That badly made assault on religion and film making should have been totally ignored. The fact that the protests have now made it even more famous/infamous is just going to cause more friction. I have seen bits of it and even if it didn't have an anti-Islam message, the thing is unwatchable. It's not Hollywood or even indie film quality. The police overreacted during the protests but so has the world over. Peace is what's needed and a simple rejection of the ignorance of others. Especially when their nobody's on the other side of the world.

nothing to do with a film

It's not about the film.
Peace is what's needed and a simple rejection of the ignorance of others, you say.
But how can there peace when Australia imprisons innocent refugees (including children) indefinitely, deports them to torture or death or dumps them in Nauru?
How can there peace when in Afghanistan, Aussie diggers summararily execute elderly men and blow up children with hand grenades?
And the corporate media vilifies the refugees, tell lies about them, calls them illegal invaders while praising the Aussie diggers as heroes, making it difficult even for Anglos (let alone Muslims!) to tell the truth about their shocking war crimes.
The West has a violent psychopathology, but as is often the case, this goes hand-in-hand with narcisism. We are shocked by a Muslim writing violent words on a placard but get all teary eyed sentimental about how ANZAC Day (a historical instance of imperialist military aggression against a Muslim country) forged the Australian character. Not to mention Australia Day — more accurately Invasion Day, celebrating the greaest genocide in human history.
Frankly, there will never be peace until Westerners reject the self-flattering ignorance our ruling classes cocoon us in.
Because until then the Western nations will continue to visit death and misery on the rest of the world. Western-imposed neoliberal globalisation, the policies of the IMF and World Bank, is not just about economics. It's about 11 million dead babies. Every year, about 11 billion babies are killed by the forseen consequences of decisions taken by Western business and political leaders because these decisions make very rich Westerners alot richer.
They also make decisions that make working class Westerners poorer. And so often so many of us never really challenge this because they're not making our babies starve, they're not bombing us, they're not sending us to Nauru. So we can feel smug that we belong to one of those superior nations in the civilised world. But when we notice that we're getting poorer if we want to keep that smug feeling then we find the nearest Aboriginal, African, Arab or Asian to blame.
Are we all like that? I like to think not but it's not encouraging to see the total lack of comprehension about Saturday's protests. Like seriously, what's so surprising about some young Muslim Australians making a point of acting like Anglo Australians do on ANZAC Day or at a sporting fixture? Is "Behead all those who insult the Prophet" really more offensive than "Fuck Off We're Full"? Particularly when the latter slogan is backed up by deportations and detention.
I too wish that the protesters had a slogan less confronting to "the broader community". I would also have liked it if they had been protesting about something more political than opposing a film that was only made to provoke Muslims.
But I'm not surprised that some young Muslim Australians are over trying to reach out to Anglo-Australians.
If we want Muslim Australians to respond more politically to the injury and insult dealt out to them maybe we should do the same. After all it's our Western culture that sees everything through the prism of clashing cultures.
Maybe we should stop blaming Aboriginals and immigrants for whatever indignities our ruling class inflicts on us — banks and develepors not boat people cause the housing shortage! Maybe we should look at history objectively, maybe we should look at the Afghanistan objectively and oppose keeping the diggers there for reasons other than just that Afghans shoot back at them.
We could look at the world objectively, lose the assumption that US, UK, Israel are always the good guys because they're "like us".
But a start, the first step, is to look at what the cops did to the proteters on Saturday, not focus on how the protesters responded, or what was written on their signs. And look at what the courts are doing now, and show solidarity with those targetted.

What if it was Christians

What if it was Christians calling for all gay people to be beheaded and carrying on like that and the police were 'brutes' to them? You wouldn't be in the same position as you are now.

well actually

In Adelaide there are extremely homophobic christian street preachers, who routinely take to teh streets and hassle LGBTI people with extremely hateful signs and slogans. However our response in Adelaide is *not* to call for them to just be bustled out- as legislative or policing solutions that focus on limiting speech in public places often backfire on others expressing voices of protest.

Instead we've been organising community responses to outnumber and outlast the homophobes message.

Im more than happy with our consistency on this. Beating on protesters brings nothing positive.

Useful idiot

Oh Rachel - you truly are so naive. You bend over backwards to excuse when other eye-witness accounts paint a different picture to what you wanted to see. Tell me, were there unicorns and fairies flying around whilst you were watching the police beat up innocent people? I guess with people like you who will try to justify this type of behavior and lay it on police brutality, there really is no hope for our country. Go ahead Rachel, live in your vacuum and apologise to those who wouldn't think twice about doing you harm for not believing what they do. As Mr Stevens found out in Libya, even after many, many years of working and helping Muslims, it meant nothing when they wanted revenge. Useful idiot comes to mind.

Regarding the film

I wonder the extent whether the rally was about a stupid film or about a century plus of European and later US mistreatment of Muslim societies from Senegal in the west, to Indonesia in the east.

Perspective please

Protests that turn in this way have people who fall into two categories each with two sub-categories.

THE BAD
The agitator - Thugs with an excuse. Disppointing for level headed muslims who make every effort to promote the positive side of Islam. If these people has genuinely put even 2 minutes of proper intelligent through they would realise that their actions have done absolutely nothing to achieve success in their alleged cause.

The sheep - Those who go with the flow, are incited by the agitators for the sake of it. The weakest category of person.

THE GOOD
The peaceful protester - Who runs (as the girls reported in this argument did when trouble started).

The peace makers - Who tries to stop the agitators and the sheep (as seen by numerous muslims in various footage who were trying to push the rioters back - Note these men were seen wearing Abaya and Taqiyah (muslim dress) - Not the face of the typical "moderate muslim" who Australia love so much.

The police also have their good eggs and their bad eggs dont forget and may have caused the situation to escalate due to poor policing. I am muslim and I acknowledge that it was The Agitators who caused this to go the way it did. Aided by The Sheep. As is the case with sporting riots, political riots, student riots, race riots.. and yes - even religeous riots.

End of story. Stop the generalising - Or you may fall into the after-math category of Reactionary Bigot, or Reactionary Apologist.

re-read what you wrote!

Oh dear

A long-winded comment with no reference to any actual events or people explains everything by abstractly dividing humanity into rigid catergories. It ends with "stop the generalising".

The fact that a fringe element in the Muslim community express their undestandable anger about a lot of things by going for posturing and slogans that are politically counterproductive is a problem for the Muslim community. But the violent and provocative police response, the inevitable racist media hysteria, the criminalisation of writing something on a placard, the calls for residency visas to be cancelled — these are problems for anyone in Australia who supports democratic rights.

DISGUSTING

I have been supportive of the Muslim community in Australia (proactively) by I now drawn a line given my tolerance towards violence can only go so far. How many people in how many countries have to die before we 'allow' our police to be scared and take action..they are human beings with families. The Islamic community-the Islamic Friendship Association themselves have condemned the violence in Hyde Park.

Be careful

To all those ardent green lefters,

Be careful about getting on the band wagon of Islam. My partner fled her homeland so she could escape an Islamic government. The very things that you value so highly such as freedom of expression, freedom of sexuality and the basic right of women been equal to men. Maybe these are wasted words but I hope not.

Demonising Islam does not help Women or LGBTI people

Please, if you care about women's rights or the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex people, do not demonise Islam. If you denounce Islam as a whole, that means all Muslims, including women and LGBTI people. If you are a Muslim woman escaping domestic violence, or a young LGBTI Muslim coming out of the closet, it is extremely hurtful to hear this kind of thing.

Here is some factual information about women, LGBTI people and Islam:

-The situation of women and LGBTI people is bad all over the world. In the Muslim world is not any better or worse.
-Millions of people are Muslims. They don't all think the same thing. Islam is as diverse as Christianity. There is a Muslim float in Sydney's Mardi Gras parade, for example. There are brave and outspoken organisations like the Al Fatiha Foundation.
-The Qur'an says less about homosexuality than the Bible.
-The Qur'an recognises that all people have sexual desire and the right to express it.
-Most of the problems that Muslim women face are the same problems that women face everywhere (i.e rape and domestic violence). See this article arguing that the Qur'an does not condone domestic violence. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/07/11/2950543.htm

Farida

It's maybe understandable to

It's maybe understandable to see how some people are outraged by what they have seen in our mainstream corporate media,I thought there must have been 1000's of very violent protesters and alot of people injured.

But when you look around some other news sources including this one, you get to see a very different picture the fact that there was about a 100 or so maybe even less who got out of hand and you have a Muslim population in this country of 450,000 it kind of puts things in perspective.

I would love to see the outrage whipped up, maybe focused on our government who supports and is involved in illegal imperialist ventures all over the mostly muslim world, killing millions of people including innocent civilians.( it's estimated 1.5million people have been killed since the war started in Iraq and who knows how many more in Afghanistan,Pakistan,Yemen Libiya,Syria etc..)

the end of the progressive left

they will study the end of the progressive Left in the future, and how once honest radical journalism like GLW started supporting Islam over rationality. What happened to the Left??? Do you think Marx would support Islam? You wouldnt support fundamentalist Christian nuts, so why Muslims just because they are anti-american?... GLW you break our heart.

Double standards to two offensive pieces.

Many years ago the community, and this publication, condemned the fundo-Christian community for the censorship of art at the National Gallery of Victoria and the attacking of Andres Serano's artwork "Piss Christ". Whilst I didn't view the artwork as being 'a great work of art', I too was appalled by that community's response to it. As far as the reaction to this current 'film', I feel the response by fundo-Islamists is just as bad, and if anything worse in terms of its lack of concentration on the film or the 'artist' who made it. Why not attack its poor production, or better yet, ignore it and let it remain obscure? The police didn't behave any differently than when I've been in the city protesting against the G8 or APEC. The only difference being the reasons for the protests. The protests I involve myself in are about universal global issues, this one was just a non-event based on the parochial concerns of one (small and unrepresentative element within the Islamic community) minority's inability to have their faith and prophet criticised by a Christian minority that is persistently persecuted, for their faith, in Cairo (The Coptic Christians). Do you see any of the Muslims that come out against this film also condemn the behaviour of the Egyptian Islamic community's treatment of their Christian minority?
Here are the links to the incident in 1997.
http://www.artcrimes.net/piss-christ
http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/13536

Two offensive pieces, two different takes. Both wrong.

Many years ago the community condemned a fundo-Christian for going into the National Gallery of Victoria and attacking Andres Serano's artwork "Piss Christ". Whilst I didn't view the artwork as being 'a great work of art', I too was appalled by that community's response to it. As far as the reaction to this current shitty film, I feel the response by fundo-Islamists is just as bad, and if anything worse in terms of its lack of concentration on the film or the 'artist' who made it. Why not attack its shitty production, or better yet, ignore it and let it remain obscure? The police didn't behave any differently than when I've been in the city protesting against the G8 or APEC. The only difference being the reasons for the protests. The protests I involve myself in are about universal global issues, this one was just a non-event based on the parochial concerns of one (small and unrepresentative element within the Islamic community) minority's inability to have their faith and prophet criticised by a Christian minority that is persistently persecuted, for their faith, in Cairo (The Coptic Christians). Do you see any of the Muslims that come out against this film also condemn the behaviour of the Egyptian Islamic community's treatment of their Christian minority?
http://www.artcrimes.net/piss-christ

This is why Australia is known as the world's most racist

Your post on the matter is very much appreciated. Listening to witnesses has always proven to give a much clearer picture on what the media can't sell the mainstream. Unfortunately, the grandmother handing out brochures and smiles doesn't sell as well as an opportunity of exploiting a 'fanatic muslim'.

Please ignore the racist hate filled comments displayed above. Majority of people are not conscious of their own thought processes and are easily influenced into having black and white views.

It is evident that the protestors could of asked for a permit first. But this is not a big deal and happens more frequently than most would think. The force used was excessive and hostile which cause the situation to be elevated.

It has been some time now that Australian police have shown their lack of skills and training when it comes to crowd control. Another case of this was in the recent shootings in Kings Cross, of the two middle eastern and aboriginal boys that were shot and trampled to death in an open crowd.

Thank you on your post. Just as the Kings Cross shootings, people gave their reports. But when terms such as 'Muslim', 'Aboriginal' or 'Middle Eastern' are heard, unfortunately Australia is one of the most close minded, ignorant countries in the world.

On defending everyone's right to protest

To anonymous Sun 16/09/12

Firstly if communities and groups want to protest with a day or two notice, they should be able to. NSW is the only state I know where protest groups need to put in a form into the police 7 days before the protest takes place, and get 'permission.'

It's designed to put groups off protesting. It's anti-democratic.

Not everyone knows how to go about getting such a form, or where to send it. A number of migrant groups I have come in contact with had no idea how to go about putting in such forms.

Such petty paperwork is designed to deter groups, and those using the argument 'they didn't put in the right paperwork' are missing the point. Muslims, Christians, eco-warriors, unionists, any group should have the right to protest without being set upon by police and their dogs.

I didn't agree with all of the placards at the rally. But French philosopher Voltaire was on the mark when he said 'I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.'

In an article ''Sydney riots' less about religion more about democracy' Green Left Weekly author Tim Dobson noted ' Democratic rights are just that. They aren't a tap to be turned on and off... What you think of the rally should be irrelevant when it comes to the question of whether it is repressed or not. Those who celebrate the crackdown are willing to put faith in the police and the state in general to determine what is a legitimate protest or not. That is a very worrying precedent.'

Read the full article here
http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52260

Finally, police were injured because they escalated a tense situation. A repugnant, Islamophobic 'Innocence of Muslims' video is released within the US which sparkes protests across the Middle East. Cops in Sydney come across a rally with impassioned young Muslim people who are then corraled and cornered, and whose children are set upon by police dogs.

Instead, if police had allowed the march to take place, without intimidation and harassment, and been calm and reasonable the situation would have been diffused.

But that would not have helped justify the war-drive and occupation the US and West have over the Middle East now, would it?

More on why US war crimes are behind Muslim, and Middle East anger here.
http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52268

Rachel Evans

Really?

How absurd to let anyone Muslim or not just protest as they seem fit. The past has proven that the damage done by these protest is unacceptable, hence there are rules for protests.

Terrible

Very sad for all

Some questions of my own

Only the worst type of idiot would say that people should be "thankful" that they weren't beaten up harder or killed but this idiocy seems common place in this debate. It's amazing how quickly the platitudes of a liberal democracy slip away if someone is uncomfortable with a protest, as witnessed by the comments in this thread.

Some questions that come to mind.

1. Do you believe in democracy?
2. Shouldn't all those in a democracy be able to express themselves without being beaten up by cops?
3. If you think a water bottle being thrown at police justifies attacking a whole crowd, then would you support that being applied to cricket games where it is a fairly regular occurance?
4. Do you think police should be in charge of deciding whether a protest is legitimate or not?

Tim Dobson

What CCTV Footage?

To all the comments condemning what happened -
The police acted in complete brutality, no other crowd would have had the same treatment. The protest was guided by police motorbikes from the beginning and they were the ones who lead it to the Embassy.

They also surrounded the protesters at the end of the day at Hyde Park and pounded everyone involved including women and children, PLEASE, explain to me what planet this is appropriate in? If you want someone to go home, DO YOU SURROUND THEM WITH THUGS WITH BATONS AND POUND THEM?

The police provoked the protesters and were hurt in the process, are you SURPRISED? You people are disgusting, if it were caucasians being treated like this, you would have had Julia Gillard by her big red balls but you show your bigotry in your comments.

What has hair colour got to do with anything?

I agree with your statements overall but by referring to Julia's hair colour (red) that reveals your bigotry. Like many red-haired people I have been bullied, beaten-up, tormented, harassed and teased throughout my life for having fair white skin and red hair - regularly made to feel stererotyped, de-humanised, inferior and outside of mainstream society. The main perpetrators are "white" brown-haired people - many of them who pretend to be "progressive." My research indicates this discrimination against red-haired people comes from English imperialist racism against the Irish and Scots - having the highest % of redheads. There is no need to refer to someone's hair colour; their genetics. You did not need to refer to Julia's hair colour. It is completely irrelevant. Would you refer to a brown-haired woman's hair colour, the colour of their "balls", in this or any context? But you felt you had to dump scorn on "red" people (insulting all of us who read this post) and in so doing this reveals you have a mind that festers in stereotypes and prejudice.