last saturday, 15 september 2012, the very peaceful welcome to aboriginal land passport ceremony was held at the settlement, darlington, whereby a great time was had by all 300+ who attended. we were contacted by the redfern police, as is their practice when an isja event occurs, to ask if they could be of any assistance during the event. they were politely informed that we expected no trouble from any quarter and if trouble did arise, we knew where they were. we had no problems from any outsiders against our event whatsoever.
not so however with a gathering of muslims who had sought permission from the town hall people to rally in town hall square to protest, as is their recognised right, against a you-tube film clip they found denigrating to mohammed and their religion. and, of course it goes without saying, that that is their inalienable right as citizens of this country to do so.
being a non-believer in any religion it is not for me to question others as to what they believe. they have their beliefs whilst i have mine. should someone need a godhead figure to assist in their day to day living experiences then that is entirely their business, as long as they do not attempt to change my point of view. i have friends from most religious groups and we get along just fine. and that group has muslims in it as well.
the you-tube clip once again raises that discussion on the social minefield of what is to be considered as ‘free speech.’ i am an avid supporter of free speech but i am also a firm believer that ‘free speech’ most definitely does not allow hate-crimes to be perpetrated against others. whether of a racial, religious, sexual or whatever kind. the last time this was raised was when andrew bolt decided that he had the right to vilify aborigines who did not match his own racist views on what constitutes aboriginality. bolt was not practicing free speech, he was practicing the free speech of racism and hate against those who were not to his warped expectations.
that bolt was supported by the right and the tony abbot opposition is no great surprise. they need this racialised free speech to continue to denigrate aborigines, muslims, among others. it is no great surprise that those who bellow loudly for their right to free speech are those who already practice their vile attacks on others who do not meet their standards based entirely on difference. howard coined the term ‘elites’ for those he continually targeted for different and special treatment.
muslims are also too easily targeted by the federal government and opposition, the mainstream media, especially that of the verbal vomit, and with no great surprise, the police forces of this country. like christians, jews, buddhists and other religions, there are various sects or denominations each firmly of the spiritual understanding that their particular variant of their religion is the correct one, and again that is their right. christians have protested when they are of the opinion that their religion or godhead has been maligned. the ‘piss christ’ art work is but one example. jews argue on the strict interpretations of their holy book, the torah. buddhists fall out also over their interpretations of which sect is right or wrong. and so also do the muslim sects. the shia and sunni struggle for power in iraq and elsewhere bears testament to that. such differences generally raise violent views and actions.
the point i am making is that those muslims who gathered last saturday, and may or may not return next saturday, had every right to rally at the sydney town hall square. they were denied that access on the feeble excuse that they did not give enough notice for their event. sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control this is not always possible. the film was deliberately produced by a fundamentalist christian group that had as its main intent the wish to denigrate and pillory muslims in america and around the world, including australia. each religious group has strong fundamentalists among their groups and the muslims are no exception.
but those who gathered at the town hall square last saturday merely wanted to peacefully protest their anger and disgust at the hate-crime that was thrust their way. protests in other muslim dominated countries were indeed violent but the fact that our group of australian muslims applied for a legal authorisation to hold the rally shows a more legal and peaceful intent. i am not clear whether the application included the march but i make the presumption that it would have. this information would have alerted the us embassy of what was coming. they would seek the support of the nsw government who would have alerted the security forces but mainly the police. just maybe the government and the police advised the town hall to knock back their request in the name of good order and discipline on the city streets. such advice is freely given and is not unusual.
all the reports i have seen and read omit any information that the event at the town hall square was not a peaceful one but that would not be the case if they tried to march as they did not have a police permit to do so. if the police were true to form those present would have informed the rally not to march. when those who decided to march, including women and children, moved onto george street the hundreds of police in reserve were informed to get ready to disperse the marchers.
visual and print media went over the top reporting on the violence and ferocity of the marchers in their attacks on the ranks of the police. estimates of marchers ranged from 1000 to 100. estimates of the police numbers ranged from 800 to 300.
marchers were said to be throwing bottles and stones. all the tv reports i saw did not show any such action but i assume that is how the police reported it. all i saw was police continually pepper spraying the marchers who to me appeared to be offering little if any resistance. one channel reported that police moved into the marchers with batons whilst they removed ‘one of their own.’ an agent-provocateur no less.
police were seen to be dragging individuals along the ground. the only violence i saw came from the police involved in the melee. that the marchers attempted to defend themselves from the pepper spray and the police use of force is surely their right. the struggle by the two opposing forces, i maintain, could have been better handled. eye-witnesses that i have spoken to, who were not part of the march, reported that the police certainly out-numbered the marchers, they were all armed with pepper spray and batons. the facts, if reported accurately by the media were that only 8 of the marchers were arrested. only 8 from what has been described as a riotous mass that formed in hyde park. the police claimed that they had to use the pepper spray and the police dogs to better protect themselves.
that is not what i saw in the tv news reports. i saw the police charging into the crowd with clouds of pepper spray. i saw police dragging people along the ground. i saw well trained police in crowd control using every tactic that they are taught to use in such events. i saw a police force in action.
both the nsw premier, barry o’farrell, and pm, julia gillard, spoke out strongly against the alleged violence by the marchers but not against the brutal actions of the police. nsw police minister, mike gallacher, made the following statement, “the violence we have seen is unacceptable. what we saw was a complete disrespect of our peaceful way of life. i praise the nsw police force (force, not service) for their swift and poised actions. they are trained for situations like this and they did an excellent job in containing what was a very aggressive and violent crowd”. but as an ex-police officer he would say that anyway. the force is there to keep us all in our designated places.
the boy with the placard, who was reported as being 4 years old, was flashed around the world. tabloid headlines screamed such violence as “sweet face of hatred” as if the young boy was absolutely evil and as a muslim child he would hate all those who were not. this is just so wrong and such headlines that are produced merely to inflame non-muslims against muslims should not be allowed. i have been in many, many marches and rallies and in every one parents give their children placards to carry to make them a part of the rally and/or march. i have given placards to my own children and grand-children over the years but certainly nothing as offensive and wrong as the one given to him by an adult who wanted to photograph him. one report told us that the placard was picked up off the ground and given to him. but this innocent child needed to be branded as a rabid and murderous muslim and, as a consequence, that disgusting term, un-australian.
merely to inflame the ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitudes of ‘real australians’.
the telegraph and the verbal vomit in both press and radio kept it up day after day, each attempting to outdo the latest piece of racist garbage by others of their ilk.
this and the attendant violence of the police is what must be seriously questioned, not by those in power for they have already closed their minds to the veracity of this and other situations where groups of outsiders have dared to challenge the might of the establishment, but by the ordinary citizens of not only this state but the whole country.
i do not want a police force, or troops as they identify themselves in true historical fashion, that serves only their masters and not those who pay the bills; we the people.
during the week many representatives from the muslim faith and community went to the nsw parliament to call for peace and to not condone the violence of last saturday. this much was made public. what was not made public is whether or not any voice or voices were raised as to the violence of the police in pepper spraying women and children and being threatened by dogs trained to viciously bite? were questions asked as to whether a more peaceful way could have been initiated before the march began? with a greater emphasis on service rather than force, perhaps it could have been.
we have the police force, and governments, we deserve by our general apathy and a belief that such actions could never be used against me.
such thoughts are just so wrong. your involvement is merely waiting to happen.
indigenous social justice association
(m) 0450 651 063
(p) 02 9318 0947
address 1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017
we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people.
sovereignty treaty social justice