PShift: We are products of the system

Went to court and saw Garcia Lorca poem ‘Casida of the Dark Doves’ written on the wall:

"Through the laurel branches
I saw two doves of darkness.
The one it was the sun,
the other one was lunar.
I said: 'Little neighbours
where is my tombstone?'"

I was there with another 150 people, our police files laid out on the court table. We are products of the system . We get called up and the magistrate sends us out to speak to the duty lawyer before he will accept our pleas – a system designed to make us wait. A day without work. No money for being in court. We wait for 3 hours. No duty lawyer is available. ‘Cos they are one lawyer down today. A woman with 2 kids is pushing her pram up and down and around – not a flash pram, your basic model

"'In my tail-feathers,' the sun said.
'In my throat,' said the lunar.
And I who was out walking
with the earth wrapped round me,
saw two eagles made of white snow,
and a girl who was naked.
And the one was the other,
and the girl, she was neither."

One of her girls is screaming her lungs out. The other is drifting in a dream of – boredom. I open my palms as if to say what a bummer. The older sister looks at me and mimics my gesture. While her sister screams and bangs her head repeatedly against the glass window. And the mother says that all she needs is her dad who is being ordered to stay away for three weeks under a domestic violence order. The mum has signed a stat dec (statutory declaration) to say that the girls need their dad.

The duty lawyer won’t listen, the magistrate doesn’t know.

We are products of the system

The mum says I hope the judge can hear her screaming so he knows what happens when her dad is away. She explains that both her girls are autistic and that the younger one is worse that she needs to have the four of them together to feel safe.

We are products of the system. The duty lawyer treats her with disdain and the mum want to go inside the court but cant because her kid is screaming and making pop and gurgle sounds. The dad came out and the kid stops crying as if by magic. The drama unfolds; the dad can’t see his girls for three weeks. We are products of the system .

I go inside the court where it is quiet there are five clerks sitting down a magistrate and a couple of lawyers and the police prosecutor going through the charade of justice. We were told it would take a half an hour – that promise is three hours old already. I tell the magistrate we can’t wait anymore. He tells me that he sent me out to the duty lawyer and had I spoken to her? I said I had not. The magistrate asks me why not. There are 50 other people waiting to see 2 duty lawyers and he asks me this?. It is lunch-time and the court takes an adjournment because they have run out of cases. Everyone is waiting for the duty lawyer. I say we can’t wait. The magistrate asks if that was me giving him the evil stare. It was a righteous stare. I say: ‘look here, mate, I have waited three hours.’ He tells me not to call him mate. It is his court and tells the police to place me in the cells. As he leaves he says you better calm down mate. (now he has called me mate) I say I am leaving. The magistrate leaves the room telling them to place me in the cells. Play the system they say.

But how do you play the system when we are products of the system?

The police prosecutor, the clerk and the screw wrestled me to the ground. I am carrying a bag of fresh eggs a friend from the country has just given me and as I sink to the ground I say ‘mind the eggs don’t break the eggs!’

The copper is strong and the clerk is determined to have him place me in the cells. My friend tells me to go. But I am on the ground – a product of the system. I am here to plead not guilty I say. They say go to the cells.

I can see the magistrate is waiting outside the door, I fancy he is making his calculation – will he slot me for contempt? It may mean that he will spend another two hours bogged down in paper work. He makes his decision. They tell me to calm down, I say I am calm; just don’t break the eggs as the walloper (policeman) twists my arm. I say let me up to the bar table.

The magistrate asks my Angel Gabriel: “Have you been in court all morning waiting for your mate?” Maurie says that he has. After a while the magistrate lectures me about the 150 others who were here before me. I tell him that I have been coming here for 35 years, so no one was here before me, not even him.

The Magistrate reads out the charge that I did trespass in the office of my local member.

I plead ‘Not Guilty’ and he let me go. In the end all it took to plead Not Guilty was 20 seconds.

What I didn’t say was six of us from the Sovereign Tent Embassy in Musgrave Park went to make a complaint to Kevin Rudd about the racist intervention in the Northern Territory. Kevin Rudd happens to be my local member – his office manager called up the Morningside police. Gods knows what she said – they brought in 25 armed police – we are products of the system .

I had to go back into the magistrates’ court building to sign my bail from. Security checks my bag but does not detect a Phillips head screwdriver I had inside. I hand it in. The security guard apologises to me for not detecting it. I get a call on my mob. The security guard tells me to hang up. I ask why. He says that I have to go through the metal detector. We are products of the system .

Later on, Maurie and I tell the mum to stay strong. She explains her whole case to us – the DVO, the dismissive duty lawyer, her desire to go and give evidence that her girls need their dad.

I said: 'Little eagles,
where is my tombstone?'
'In my tail-feathers,' the sun said.
'In my throat,' said the lunar.
Through the branches of laurel,
I saw two doves, both naked.
And the one was the other,
and the two of them were neither.

The only reason the magistrate let me go was because he had to deal with the 150 others. He let me go thanks to my angel Gabriel, Maurie, who calmly stayed there with me in court even though he was hangin’ out for a smoke.

The dad was not so lucky.

He could not see his girls for another three weeks.

We are products of the system.

Ian Curr
28 March 2013

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