“The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets.”
On Good Friday (15 April 2022), 4ZZZ’s Andy Paine interviewed well-known political activist Ciaron O’Reilly. During the interview Ciaron claimed that the authorities in the US wouldn’t pick on political activists in prison whom they thought had political ‘reach on the outside‘. Where does that leave Julian Assange when he is extradicted to the US by the British legal system.
At a time when climate change activists are being sent to jail, Ciaron O’Reilly said “And so even writing a letter sending a postcard is very important because it gives a signal to the prison staff that you’re connected, and that you should not be bullied or, you know, because they basically cowardly prison staff … so they won’t pick on anyone who they think has reach on the outside. So I think for even the safety of a prisoner, that kind of small acts of solidarity and protests outside of jail, always spreads like wildfire inside a jail. So I know this is the case at Belmarsh, and when we were in prison and Darwin for Jabiluka. Whenever there was a protest and supporting us outside it would spread. Boggo Road they (the guards) always overestimated the solidarity we had outside and found that very significant.“
Not my experience in Queensland prisons, Ciaron.
In 1980 I was accused of anti-government activity in the pages of the Townsville Daily Bulletin (the print media had more ‘reach’ in those days). Various articles singled me out as a political activist on criminal charges during the Bjelke-Petersen era. I had been planted with drugs by police and ‘verballed’ with the assistance of the Qld Special Branch. On the same day as the newspaper court report, I was imprisoned in Stuart Creek prison for contempt of court. My brother, a lawyer with a respected local firm of solicitors, could not nothing to help me.
There were active political groups in Townsville at the time, and even the later celebrated historian, Henry Reynolds, the husband of Labor Senator, Margaret Reynolds, picketed the watchouse where I was locked up before being sent to Stuart Creek.
Contrary to Ciaron’s assertions the Prison Superintendent, the prisoners and the guards all picked on me. I was assaulted, nearly shot by a guard and put in solitary.
The Prison Superintendent called me out in the assembly yard and tried to get me to break a prison hunger strike that prisoners had started before I entered the prison … the Superintendent ostracized me in front of the hundred or so prisoners assembled, ordering me to eat the porridge laid out on a table saying: “Common’ Mr Civil Liberties, come and eat your breakfast.” or words to that effect. I think this may have led to my being assaulted by one of the prisoners.
I counsel against activists thinking that they can organise from prison and from thinking anything much can be achieved by going to prison.
No one in their right mind could argue that Julian Assange rotting in Belmarsh does any good. But in a repressive states like ours, political activists are put in prison against their will. It is for this reason, that people should support political activist defence like the campaign to have Julian Assange released from prison.
16 April 2022
Stuart Creek Prison (pictured)
Protests outside T’vlle Courts