Exile on Main Street – ‘Refugees are welcome here’

The Kangaroo Point Main Street Central Apartments in Brisbane houses about 120 refugees who hang banners off their balconies supported by protesters. In response the government attempted to extract the refugees. So protestors erected tents and camping gear to begin a blockade. Three demands were hastily put together:

  1. No forced transfers of refugees
  2. Allow refugees day passes into the community
  3. Release all refugees by Christmas.

On the corner of Walmsley and Main protestors have maintained a vigil for the past 9 weeks. Then on 12 June a large protest of 500 people congergated outside the hotel cum detention centre. Eighteen move-on orders were made by police. By 5pm 60 to 100 protestors had returned. All structures were removed.

A camp site has been set up in a private car park on Lockerby Street. One of the protestors said that they had been there since last Thursday, that the cops try to break their spirits, the cops are learning too’ he said. ‘Our overall objective is to have the refugees freed with safety and security’. There has been a lot of community support but people have yelled criticisms as well. People drive by telling cops to get a better jobs.

Use of force

Police Inspector Tony Ridge confirmed that Border Force have called on Qld police to remove the protestors. However the Queensland Police Force is not capable of carrying out mass arrests of refugee activists … it takes a lot of organisation and planning …. something that the police have not done since the street marches over 40 years ago. Nor are friends of the refugees capable (at the moment) of creating a mass movement to bring about change. Such a movement would need to be defiant and that would require a response from the state. The Qld government is following a stratgey of ‘safe hands’ allowing police discretion to pick off activists from the blockade. Of course this may change from hour to hour, but the overall array of forces leave the Main Street blockade both isolated and vulnerable if it continues on this course.

It was the defiance & resolve of the 1977 Democratic Rights Movement to bring down the Bjelke-Petersen government that made such assemblies possible.

A word of advice to the protest on Main Street. Do not resort to legalism . It matters not if a direction by a police officer is lawful or not. No piece of legislation can change where power lies. Police decide which law to impose on whom. This is a political struggle.

A rally that is ‘systematic, organised, nonviolent and absolutely massive‘ will not change the situation of refugees by appealing to just masters. Where are these so-called just leaders? It is the capitalist system that has, for centuries, denied refugees freedom from war poverty and incarceration.

In the political life of Queensland stretching back 50 years we have seen many waves of refugees come to Australia. An early wave was from Chile in 1974 and 76 who were (ironically?) housed in Kangaroo Point on Main Street. All waves have come from political struggles elsewhere, often far removed from Australia’s objective conditions. However many have come as a direct result of Australian involvement. For example the Australian diplomats and companies assisted the generals effect the coup in 1973. After this terrible coup resulting in mass killings by the military, Chilean refugees fled. Some were more political than others. Many simply wanted another life. Others formed solidarity groups to help their companeros suffering repression at home. But now there are no organised Chile solidarity groups left in Australia. Recently a loose group, Chile Desperto, was formed and has organise a few largely apolitical rallies.

In Chile, the first Marxist elected to government, Salvador Allende, leader of Unidad Popula, was shot dead in the Presidential palace on orders from the man who sat beside him as his chief of military, Augusto Pinochet.

Like Gough Whitlam who trusted Sir John Kerr to the end of his government, both Allende and Whitlam did not realise that their trusted lieutenants were plotting with the CIA to overthrow the democratically elected governments which they led. Such is the struggle of socialist governments Latin America, in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba.

As part of the war on terror many refugees have fled the middle east and asia minor … a few have found their way to Australia. Many of the exiles on Main Street are from Iran. They represent yet another wave which began during the Islamic revolution in that country in 1979 – a revolution that some left wing groups in Australia curiously supported (at least initially). Such naive political acts is a key aspect of Australia’s refugee support groups.

To be continued …

Here is an excellent report by Lillian Rangiah from the 4ZZZ news room

National Day of Action for Refugees – Kangaroo Point June 13/14

Sunday 14th June 2020 by Lillian Rangiah

Protesters were emotional at a National Day of Action for refugees outside a detention centre in Kangaroo Point yesterday.

They gathered in solidarity with 120 refugees and asylum seekers detained inside Kangaroo Point Central Hotel, who have been protesting their conditions from the hotel balcony for months.

Activists and detainees addressed the crowd through a PA system set up on Main Street.

Tension arose with police when protesters on the street demanded a detainee be allowed to hug his three-year-old son, whom he had never touched. Organisers called on protesters to de-escalate as they negotiated with police. Ultimately the hug was not allowed.

Police forcibly cleared the street at 5pm, threatening to detain anyone who blocked the road.

Some activists remain at the site, blockading the detention centre to prevent detainees from being removed to BITA, a higher-security facility.

120 pairs of shoes laid out to represent the 120 detainees inside the Kangaroo Point detention centre. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah] Protesting detainees look on from their balcony during speeches by activists on Main St. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Protesters on Main St. cross their arms above their head in a show of solidarity with detainees. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Protest organiser, Alice Wicks sports a black eye after being arrested by police on Thursday evening for preventing a vehicle from removing a detainee to BITA. They refused bail conditions that would ban them from returning to the detention centre for the next 3 months and accepted a $500 fine for charges of public nuisance and obstructing police. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

A protest marshal keeps an eye on the footpath, more blockaders have set up for overnight camping behind him. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Serco private security keep an eye on the protest from inside the detention centre. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Protesters use chalk and spray paint to write messages of support on the road. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Several kids add their own artworks to the road. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Wangerriburra and Birra Gubba activist Sam Woripa Watson addresses the crowd. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah] Protesters hold signs up for detainees to see from their balcony. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Some protesters improvise cardboard signs. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Organisers are emotional during 7 minutes of silence, 1 minute for each year Kangaroo Point detainees have spent in detention. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

A speaker, quietly emotional during the 7 minutes silence. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

This woman’s partner is detained inside at the Kangaroo Point detention centre. Her partner was in detention when his son was born and has never held him. She is waiting on the outcome of negotiations with police that could allow her partner to hug her son. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

A protester stands silently in front of police, as they block off access to the hotel entrance. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

As Media take photos, the original officer swaps places with another officer. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Meanwhile, designated Police Liaisons are in talks with a police negotiator. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

A front line of protesters faces a front line of police on Main St. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Rows of officers prepare to clear Main St at 5pm, when the authorisation for the Main St. road closure expires. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

The front line of protesters refusing to move off the road, including Greens candidate for South Brisbane, Amy McMahon [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah] 6 police vans on Main St after protesters have been cleared from the road. [4ZZZ/Lillian Rangiah]

Lillian Rangiah
Brisbane Line and Zedlines

For updates see http://4zzz.org.au/news/

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