A formal letter of complaint to Queensland Police Minister regarding police harassment of a Brisbane City Councillor and assault of a librarian has fallen on deaf ears. Police committed a serious assault on a NTEU union member that occurred on 25 October 2020. See Man Down at KP Prison. This complaint was never followed up by senior police or by the minister. This is despite the fact that the level of violence and harassment by police towards activists has increased to levels experienced during the Bjelke-Petersen years – Ian Curr, 28 October 2021.
To the Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, Mark Ryan MP.
I am writing to you about two serious incidents of police harassment and assault under the Palaszczuk Labor government. I am aware that you are a minister in the most right-wing Labor government since the Hanlon Labor government of 1948 when a Communist member of parliament was bashed by police on the annual St Patricks Day march. I too am aware that your government backs the coal and gas industry, supports the Rudd-initiated ban on permanent settlement of refugees, and does nothing to reign in police violence against Aboriginal people. In short your government is just as opposed to socialism as Hanlon’s Labor Party was. Contrary to popular belief, it was the Hanlon Labor government that introduced the Special Branch in Queensland, an organisation that helped destroy so many lives in this state.
Both incidents to which I refer below are on the public record:
- The persecution and harassment of Brisbane City Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri by Snr Constable Borg (from Mt Omaney Police station) culminating in charges laid against Cr Sri on 26 January 2021.
- The assault of an NTEU union member outside the Kangaroo Point Refugee Detention Centre by Snr Constable David Giddins on 25 October 2020.
Please note that I am aware that these police did not act alone. Police named were not part of some rogue element. They acted with full support from their superiors in the Queensland Police Force. Be mindful also that this letter is not some plaintive plea to the Minister for justice. All the facts documented in this letter are on the public record. Neither of the individuals concerned have approached me to take up the savage treatment metered out to them by police. I am unsurprised that given the gravity of the injustice described below that police did not follow up Incident 2. described below. Clearly I am suspicious of the role played by the Minister for Police. Given the transparent lies promulgated by senior police in these matters follow up should have been taken by the mainstream press. I reported Incident 2 on public radio 4ZZZ as long ago Fri 30 Oct 2020 on Paradigm Shift: Australia’s ‘Mare Nostrum’ for refugees yet the serious material raised in the broadcast by Michael McNally (NTEU) and Ian Rintoul (RAC) was universally ignored.
Persecution and harassment of Jonathan Sri
Jonathan Sri is not our local councillor but I think he is a model of what a Brisbane City councillor should be.
I am concerned that he is being harassed by specific police officers in the performance of his duties particularly this one (pictured). I provide a picture because this officer refused to give his full name when he pulled over the councillor on his bike at a dangerous intersection in Mater Hill.
Previously I was told that police had charged Jonathan with going through a red light, itself a dangerous act. I found this to be quite ironic given that Jonathan Sri and his predecessor (Cr Helen Abrahams) had done so much to try to get this intersection made safe along with various bicycle organisations. We have reported in these pages how a Danish student, Ms. Rebekka Meyer, 22, lost her life at this intersection when she was run over by a semi-trailer while turning right on her bicycle. A phantom bike remains at the site to remind people of how dangerous this intersection and the roads nearby are. And now, only metres away from where the cyclist died police are interrogating the one public official who has done so much to address the issue of transport safety.
Not only was the report that Jonathan Sri was guilty of going through a red light false but also the police officer pictured had been trolling him on facebook and pursued him in the company of two other police to pull him up on his way from a legal peaceful assembly, to accuse the councillor of endangering public safety. The police had parked their paddy wagon dangerously, obstructing heavy traffic passing through the intersection while interrogating the councillor. Cr Sri confirmed he would be contesting the fine on the grounds it was not safe for him to stop at the yellow light at the time.
I should not have to remind you of the provisions of the police act requiring police officers to identify themselves to members of the public while in the execution of their duties. Section 637 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act (PPRA) requires officers to give their “name, rank and station.” This officer gave his rank and station, but only gave his last name.
In somewhat similar circumstances I was threatened by a senior police officer with arrest at a ceremonial lighting of a sacred fire in Musgrave Park even though I complied with section 40 and 41 of the PPRA, which also required me to give my name and address. Like the good councillor I was badgered to give my mobile number and to provide proof of my address immediately. Later that evening I was pulled over by police whilst an occupant of a vehicle leaving the cultural business. The driver was asked to provide her drivers licence even though she had committed no traffic infringement. This was pure police harassment. At a subsequent trial, the magistrate confirmed and accepted that the aboriginal elders present at the ceremony were practising their culture and that their performance was warranted in the circumstances and hence my attendance at the ceremony was also appropriate. See Brisbane City Council vs Curr [2014 QMC].
I am concerned that valuable police assets have been deployed to pursue and harass the councillor whose office is nearby. For Cr Sri to be followed on his bicycle by three police using a paddy wagon is threatening behaviour. I think the use of a paddy wagon as a weapon of threat by police can give rise to fear even in the mind of a trained lawyer like Jonathan Sri. On another occasion I have witnessed police threatening to arrest Jonathan Sri at a protest about Brisbane City Council’s taking away shelter used by homeless people at Kurilpa when the weather is bad. On that occasion, police had already arrested a young woman and placed her in a paddy wagon and turned off the air-conditioning system creating a dangerous hot house inside the vehicle. It took persistent complaints to the officer in charge to have the air-conditioning turned back on.
I am also concerned about the failings of these policemen’s commanding officer by allowing resources for which s/he is responsible to be used in this way and then to treat Cr Sri’s complaint with such disdain. What are police from Mt Omaney doing pursuing a councillor who has attended an Invasion Day rally on 26 January 2021 in South Brisbane? Why weren’t they wearing masks as the general public attending the demonstration were required to do by the Chief Government Medical officer? Why were the charges pursued for months in the courts only to be withdrawn when the police officer’s harassment of the councillor on social media came to light in a Guardian article?
The police concerned have acted furtively and refused to disclose their identity while pretending to go about their public duty to make the roads safe and protect the lives of people at a difficult time of pandemic and financial stress.
We do not need police who openly misuse their extensive powers to threaten people who look out for the safety of others in an often cruel and unforgiving world that creates injustice for refugees and oppressed people.
After a life-long association with the labour movement I am concerned that harassment of activists under Labor Party in government is on the increase. In the case of Jonathan Sri I am particularly concerned about the pipeline between you as a Labor Ministers of Police and the Police Commissioner. Who is controlling whom? Police have misused their powers in the past resulting in the deaths of first nations people (the finding by Coroner Clement’s that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley’s killed Cameron ‘Mulrunji’ Doomadgee) on 19th November 2004. This occurred under the watch of a previous Labor Police Minister, Judy Spence, who had far too close a relationship with then Police Minister Atkinson. Police raided the Palm Island community under protection of emergency powers invoked by a Labor government causing severe distress to first nations people and their children.
It is time you as the Police Minister asserted your authority to protect Councillor Sri and others like him who undergo unnecessary harassment by police on a daily basis because of their political beliefs. At the very least, the police officer who refused to properly identify himself and trolled the councillor on facebook for years should be sacked.
So too should his commanding officer at Mt Ommaney be sacked for permitting police under his command to misuse public resources in this way.
Serious Assault of NTEU member
A video on social media shows a National Tertiary Education Union NTEU union member standing with his back turned to Qld Senior Constable David Giddins (Public “Safety” Response Team) who cowardly punches him from behind. Giddins was a repeat offender having menaced protestors outside the Kangaroo Point prison set up by Immigration Minister Dutton.
What appears to have happened is that the police officer runs up, hits and pushes the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) member to the ground. Another refugee activist wearing a Covid-19 safety mask tries to protect his comrade on the ground. A melee ensues and the crown begins to chant “all cops are bastards” and they push police away as they attempt to arrest the man.
Response from Senior Police
A police spokesperson claims police are investigating policeman Giddins.
In a Pythonesque moment at a press conference following the assault by police officer Giddins, a/Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners calmly stated:
“It certainly doesn’t appear to us that it (the assault) was what it appeared to be under the context that it was shown to be (by the video footage).“ Digging himself an even bigger hole, the Assistant Commissioner then went on to blame the camera angles of the footage taken by witnesses for making something that appeared to be an assault to actually confirm that it was an assault.
Quite a lot of footage of the incident was taken at the scene.
Refugee Solidarity Meanjin issued the following statement:
“New footage of Senior Constable David Giddins (badge number 7763) assaulting the people trying to give first aid to the person he’d just coward punched—who was now bleeding from the ear on the ground in front of him.
Giddins also assaults several other people and attempts to stop cameras from filming his name and badge number close up.At one point Giddins slaps a phone camera to the ground. Yet Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners said in a press conference that he believed the actions of the officer were “appropriate“.”
Response from unionist who was assaulted by Giddins
“We should never lose sight of the fact that the violence inflicted on the minds and bodies of the Kangaroo Point and BIDA (sic, BITA = Brisbane Immigration Transit Centre) refugees for more than seven years is a crime infinitely more harmful. Their fortitude and resistance in the face of this brutality is astounding and an inspiration to all of us. … It is, in the end, a political strategy. Cops are used against us when we act in ways that show we refuse to accept and be weakened by concocted divisions based on nationality, race and religion.“
“The frenzied behaviour of the cop who king hit me represents the face of the boss class when those ideas start to break down. He is part of the establishment’s last line of defence. Which is all the more reason for us to keep going. Our friends inside Kangaroo Point prison and BIDA deserve nothing less. See everyone at the action on Friday” … https://www.facebook.com/events/635438127076428/
Union response to the assault
Michael McNally, the State Secretary of the NTEU had this to say about the brutal assault on their member (WBT has redacted the name of the man assaulted by police in case the QPS seeks reprisal against the man now suffering from a heart condition) :
“Footage has circulated on social media of a National Tertiary Education Union member being assaulted by a police officer at the Kangaroo Point refugee rally on Sunday afternoon. The man, Xxx Xxxxx, a 56-year-old university librarian, is seen holding a fence when a police officer violently attacks him. Xxx was hospitalised overnight and released from the Mater on Monday afternoon.
“I was shocked and appalled to see Xxx attacked like that. The footage is really short and you can’t see what is happening before the incident, but there is no possible excuse for this excessive use of force.”
“Xxx just appears to be holding the fence when he is attacked from behind, while not apparently constituting a threat to anyone.”
“Xxx has been protesting for a long time against the festering sore that has been created by the indefinite detention of refugees in terrible conditions.”
“It’s totally inappropriate that they are locked up in an inner-city motel that’s not fit for purpose. I bet that the police don’t want to have to be there either, though that’s no excuse for violence. It’s a toxic situation created by inhumane border protection policy.” – [Media Release: Posted 27 October 2020 by Michael Evans (NTEU National Office)]
Labor Party Government response
The Labor Party-in-government has done nothing about this serious assault by Snr Cnst David Giddins. At his own media conference the victim of police assault responded to the lies told by a/Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners. The victim took no further action after that press conference. He did so for medical reasons. Also he subsequently received legal advice and concluded he had little chance of succeeding with a complaint.
The University Librarian has received no further communication from the Queensland Police Service (QPS) since the incident.
Police Minister Mark Ryan claims that the “Queensland Police Service always puts community first.”
The minister has done nothing despite there being an alarming rise in lawlessness by police. Especially when confronted by peaceful demonstrations. Police have targetted other activists including an incident where a police constable harassed local councillor Jonathan Sri for a number of years because of his support for refugees and first nations people.
Both Snr Cnst David Giddins and a/Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners should be summarily dismissed from the Queensland Police force and charges of common assault laid against Giddins and a charge of ‘perverting the course of justice’ against Conners.
Isn’t it time the Queensland Labor government changed policing practices in this state, an outsider could be forgiven that the Queensland government is still presiding over a penal colony.
21 October 2021
Man Down at KP Prison