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"You bring your kite, I'll bring the uzis". ()
Email: matt (nospam) hopecaravan.com
07 May 2003
Easter, South Australia 2003 and hundreds of people from around the country converge on Baxter one of Australia's most notorious immigration detention centres. Some protesters had travelled almost 2500 km/1600 miles to be at Baxter and in solidarity with refugees and their fellow human rights activists from around the nation.
Easter, South Australia 2003 and hundreds of people from around the country converge on Baxter one of Australia's
most notorious immigration detention centres. Some protesters had travelled almost 2500 km/1600 miles to be at Baxter
and in solidarity with refugees and their fellow human rights activists from around the nation.
Hundreds converged on Port Augusta a small town 300 km/190 miles north of Adelaide, South Australia.
The refugee advocates by consensus from the de-centralized movement and by invitation of the original
Aboriginal Elders of the Bungalla people first gathered at Gladstone Square which makes
up the heart of the small town. People with large quantities of water and camping equipment met informally
and then discussions were had for making plans to converge onto the Baxter IDC (Immigration Detention Centre).
We next converged at Baxter IDC where the police had formed a road block leading towards Baxter. Police in
protective riot gear were present to stop us but we would ultimately confront them 'en masse" & while calm
and full of determination negotiate our rights to freely protest.
South Australian Premier,
Mike Rann prior to the peaceful actions made public threats and assertions
that the protesters would be feral meatheads using the cause as a holiday but during our actions we came
to find that it was the police who would be the feral ones and later we would meet their meathead comrades
Amongst the protesters there were professionals like doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, community workers
along with paralegals, university students, mums, dads, children, people of all races and colour and they
would be peaceful for the event, against racism and in solidarity for refugee rights in Australia.
A local man carried his very young son on his shoulders the 3 km/2 miles walk to the detention centre from
the camp site and back several times a day over the three day protest. His young daughter would rollerblade
along the road. They were new to protesting but had no trouble deciding that this was a cause that they should
attend & support.
After arriving as a large justice posse of 500 or more protesters, paralegals and affinity group
representatives made their requests to the commanding officer, 'Goodfellow'. A "Goodfellow" or not he
announced to the protesters over a loud speaker that the authorities would respect our right to free
assembly but that we would not be allowed to cross the police road block with our camping gear. They
would search us and confiscate placards, flags and anything deemed dangerous or offensive.
Some time would pass and paralegals along with affinity group representatives were lead to believe
that there was an agreement that we could travel some distance further beyond the road block to setup
the camp site. Protesters immediately rushed forward with their possessions and set off on foot the
almost 1 km/.5 mile trek down the road before again being stopped by police.
Without warning and though we'd been given assurances that time would be given to further negotiate
and or retreat with our equipment and including the fact that we were told from the beginning that
our democratic right to free assembly would be respected still we were set upon by mounted police
and foot-patrols. There were absolutely no warnings when suddenly huge grey horses started charging
into people. Hundreds of people were then faced with a frenzy from over reactionary mounted police
and foot patrols pursuing us.
Arrests for trespassing, wearing a studded wrest band, offensive language at police and even for
flying kites occurred during these frantic moments. In an attempt to escape the mayhem one poor
elderly gentleman became faint and fell temporarily unconscious on the road badly hurting his nose.
Medical personnel and professionals from the protesters contingent volunteered their assistance and
expertise to help those being arrested or were injured while others acted as photo journalists recording
& documenting the police violence.
During this chaos the Australian reporter
Thea Williams was arrested for trespassing and unlike those
protesters who were arrested she was later released without charge. Trespassing was now an offence
determined by your intent and job description rather than any fixed location or breach of perimeter.
A long and dangerous confrontation was the result as massive horses continued to slam against protesters
and trample tents. Paralegals, politicians and refugee advocates would attempt in vain to negotiate a
peaceful solution but were ignored until some time later when they could only manage a settlement that
meant that the protesters would lose the newly gained ground.
After many minor injuries and the loss of tents and possessions a promised peaceful retreat would bring
calm to the violent attacks by police and their horses. The protesters ended up having their tents and
possessions under the feet of the massive horses and ultimately lost behind the police lines. Later these
possessions belonging to the protesters were returned but only after authorities transported them back
to the point where the police had finally decided we would be allowed to camp.
This all started without warning and the police were desperately trying to get a violent reaction from
the refugee activists who remained for the most restrained and peaceful. As time went by and especially
by the last day police become so frustrated by the protesters peaceful and creative actions that they
stooped to new lows in extremely dangerous, abusive and threatening behaviour.
Once we arrived back on top of the hill our Tent City was constructed quickly and followed shortly after
by night fall. A Brisbane group called "Food Not Bombs" travelled the vast distance from Brisbane and
provided food for all 1000 + protesters present. FNB - Brisbane overcame adversities like a vehicle
breaking down to attend the protest at Baxter and managed to provide delicious food for everyone.
A heavily starred night sky was brilliantly lit by a full moon which emanated a spiritual energy over
the Easter weekend 2003. A helicopter roamed the sky shining a bright search light over us and the
During our discussions around the
SACRED FIRE we decided to be totally peaceful and made our objective
to go to the fence of Baxter IDC and make as much noise as possible with the aim to reach the refugees
inside by sound.
Later that night after consideration around the
SACRED FIRE protesters decided to walk the 3 km/2 miles
to the Baxter detention centre. Police were discovered hiding in the dark ready to ambush and a helicopter
buzzed us lighting our movements towards the refugee detention centre/concentration camp.
After our long journey by foot to Baxter IDC with fortunately minimal arrests we were confronted by lines
of riot police with their manic depressive disco jump suits and accessories like they were straight out
of a really bad science-fiction movie. People chanted long and hard, "AZADI >> FREEDOM >> AZADI >> FREEDOM"
while banging pots 'n pans, shaking maracas, playing various drums and other instruments.
A friend managed to encourage one policeman who forgot momentarily where he was and started to chant
along with us. He was eventually stopped by his commanding officer. I asked one policeman, "How did your
parents arrive to this country?" Who then lifted his visor revealing he was of Asian decent and replied,
"By boat". He smiled and I knew that he understood exactly what I was saying and why we had all come to
Baxter IDC, but for the most part they were meatheads who didn't know whose civil rights they were upholding.
Occasionally we had moments of complete quiet so that the hundreds of protesters could hear the refugees
inside calling back, their sweet sound travelled the night air and rang in our ears. We had made contact,
we had breached the barriers peacefully and this became a powerful moment for solidarity & human rights.
Over the coming days we would fly more kites, hang yellow stars, release balloons and drape our banners
and placards on the fence outside the IDC. People would walk the 3 km/2 miles to the centre several times
a day and we also received further confirmation of our contact with the refugees on mobile telephones.
On the Saturday night we had a fantastic concert called, "Rock on against Racism" (ROAR) which was powered
by music and entertainers singing and playing for human rights & against racism within our community. They
directed their songs with messages of support for refugees towards the IDC and blasted their funky,
alternative and hopping music with an indigenous feel through the cool night air.
We were there with permission of the indigenous owners, and we recognised the injustices of empire on the
Aborigines too. Empire invaded long ago and has been mistreating and enslaving people ever since. At a time
when government & big business want no borders for money and commercial interests they and authorities instil
fear while building bigger and stronger borders for people. Refugees reduced to a number, dehumanised and
locked up indefinitely we were at Baxter to fight this inhumane system.
Just think about it, in the name of fear and border protection we racially vilify the so-called 'illegals'
in places like Baxter IDC. Unlike any other prison in Australia, Baxter IDC is secured with a deadly 7-9 amp
electric fence. Built in a remote desert region of Australia, the Australian IDC's are out of sight and out of
mind. The immigration
concentration camps exist in an environment of no media access, no compassion or
accountability. Maximum security prisons, a system to hold people seeking their international right to asylum
in this country. Detention is a place where sick and vulnerable people unable to see the horizon only the sky
directly above and the ground below, become lost, disorientated and in constant fear. Psychological abuse and
threats are standard for those who are on average detained for up to 3.5 years. Detained for years where they
are subjected to incidences of abuse, neglect resulting in death and outbreaks of diseases like dengue fever
and malaria. Deaths in custody commonly go without public notification or the media even being aware of it.
Even once released they never forget or fully recover the permanent scars which form from the constant threat
of deportation and long term imprisonment.
International and nation wide public outcries for the children who are imprisoned with adults and sometimes
without any other family members present. Although some might not speak English very well or know how to read
they are aware that the Geneva Convention for refugees states specifically that no-one can be deported to known
danger and in an act of self preservation the refugees refuse deportation packages offered by the minister to
places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Finally on the third day of the Easter actions, Sunday 21st the tent city was raided by Star Force. Star Force
an anti-terrorist SWAT team that penetrated the camp site did so in the most extreme of attempts to intimidate
and scare protesters. They used the excuse that they were reacting to a possible weapons threat after powerful
camera equipment filmed a person standing on the hill pointing what they thought was a machine gun at the helicopter.
Although this was an obvious practical joke performed in the open air with a tri-pod and during early morning hours,
Star Force considered it a terrorist threat. Such a serious threat but still it took them 4 hours to enact an actual
response? Later that afternoon they would arrive by way of a 4 wheel drive vehicle with half a dozen men totting sub
Hundreds of protesters still in the camp site and tensions at boiling point these thugs risked massive casualties and
the deaths of their fellow Australians who were only exercising their democratic right to free assembly. I asked a
local Port Augusta policeman, "What is happening?". He refused to allow me to approach Star Force and their heavy-handed
tactical response but told me, "We have spotted someone pointing what looks like a machine gun at the helicopter". I
said, "Oh! Come on! How likely is it that the protesters would have a weapon let alone a machine gun?". He replied by
stating, "I think Star Force are being a little over the top, I'm sure they know already that it was only a tri-pod".
The authorities frustrated and longing for violent clashes in the end just couldn't miss an opportunity to over-react.
Desperately wanting to cast aspersions that the protesters are terrorists
Mike Rann & his Meatheads Star Force (the
Police State) says, "You bring your kite, I'll bring the uzis".
Just imagine all this just to protect an electrified fence in the desert.