Dozens of supporters descended on the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy this afternoon, amid reports on social media that NSW Police were trying to evict activists.
Shortly after 1pm, the call went out from the Embassy’s Facebook page for the troops to rally.
“Everyone in Sydney get to the block asap. We need 100s like on blockade day. Right now. [Aboriginal Housing Company] and redfern police planning to evict us. Share and come down asap pls”
The Embassy was established in May, in opposition to Aboriginal Housing Company plans to develop the Block not for Aboriginal housing, but for office blocks and university student accommodation (the land was gifted to Aboriginal people specifically for the provision of housing for some of the state’s most disadvantaged residents).
Embassy activists have occupied the iconic Aboriginal site ever since, despite repeated attempts to convince them to leave, and despite the ongoing harassment of embassy protestors.
This afternoon, more than 50 supporters descended on the Embassy within an hour of the call for help being broadcast. The Embassy remains in tact, but one resident was effectively evicted from the site.
Embassy leader and Gamillaroi elder Jenny Munro cannot return to the Embassy, after this morning being charged by Redfern Detectives with assault, following an altercation at the Embassy the previous week.
Aunty Jenny strongly denies the allegations and asserts that like a number of other Embassy activists in the recent past, she was the victim of an attack. But while police gave her bail, one of the restrictions they imposed prevents her from residing at the protest site.
It was a clever play by police – Embassy lawyers are unable to challenge the appropriateness of the bail conditions until January 9, when Aunty Jenny will appear in the Downing Centre Local Court.
Until then, she’ll have to reside at her home in a nearby suburb.
Police imposed the bail conditions despite a lengthy submission from Aunty Jenny’s lawyer, Lisa De Luca which argued that preventing an Aboriginal woman from entering Aboriginal lands, while allowing a non Aboriginal woman (the alleged victim) access to private Aboriginal lands was “unacceptable”.
In her written submission, Ms De Luca argued:
1. The area known as the Block is owned by Aboriginal people, held in trust by the Aboriginal Housing Company;
2. It is private property, and is clearly marked as such, although is not enclosed by fencing. The alleged victim, a white woman, had no business being on the Block uninvited.
3. Ms Munro has continuously resided on the area known as the Block, Redfern since May 26, 2014 and as a respected Aboriginal elder, is the leader of a peaceful protest known as the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. It is a protest against the Aboriginal Housing Company and developers proposing to build offices… instead of housing for Aboriginal people.
4. To force her to leave her place of residence, and the protest by excluding her from the Block, I submit is both unfair and unreasonable. As stated on the phone, “having an Aboriginal woman excluded from Aboriginal land in favour of a white woman who has no rights to enter the land is unacceptable”.
5. Since May 2014, Ms Munro and other occupants have been subjected to threats, intimidation and assaults by people connected with the Aboriginal Housing Company, at least one of whom is a police witness in this matter.
The submission also alleges inappropriate conduct on the part of police, and highlights the fact that Embassy protestors have been the ones who have been the victims of violence.
“It is a concern that both the alleged victim and one of the witnesses were interviewed in the same room at the same time….” Ms De Luca writes.
“Police have laid several charges against these people, of which all are pending in the criminal courts.
“All of these acts of violence have been perpetrated against the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy with the sole purpose of stopping the protest.
“I am instructed, and indeed the attached statement confirms, that Ms Munro was acting in self-defence. Accordingly, the matter will be vigorously defended.”
Ms De Luca finished the submission with a request:
“If it is decided that regardless of the above, you wish to exclude Ms Munro from residing on the Block over the weekend, I ask that you please call me prior to doing so (as per our discussion) and that you please list her matter before Downing Centre Local Court on 22 December 2014, where I will make an application for variation of the bail conditions.”
Instead, police waited until December 22 to charge Aunty Jenny, issued their own bail conditions, and then gave her a court attendance notice for January 9.
In the interim, protestors will continue to man the Embassy site over the Christmas holiday season. Other Aboriginal elders will remain on site.
If you want to become part of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s ‘rapid response unit’, or you’re simply after updates on the Embassy’s progress, then you can ‘like’ their official Facebook page here.