The other side of the story

18 05 2011

What happens in those off-shore compounds is rarely told from the perspective of those living in them.  More often than not, it’s the large commercial media organisations and various politicians attempting to appeal to base national sentiments.  The ABC have recently published a statement on what occurred recent on Christmas Island written by a refugee.  It is a must read for anyone look for the other side of the story.

Around four or five months ago there was a protest on Christmas Island, which around 250 detainees took part in, in the form of a hunger strike. They were protesting against the unfair system of claim processing by the immigration department.

The protest went on for a week, and after a week some people from the Ombudsman came to listen to detainees’ complaints. They came and sat down with clients’ representatives, and promised that they would pass on detainees’ concerns to the Department of Immigration. However, after a couple of months no one noticed even a slight change in Immigration’s way of processing the cases. Instead of implementing a change, they started to promise detainees that everything would be better in March, and that there would be a lot of noticeable changes, such as a speed up in the processing time for cases, and many other promises.

When March came, however, not only had nothing special happened, but also many people started to get rejected for a second time. For the first 10 days of March many rejections were handed out. This caused even more anger and frustration for detainees, because of the false promises from Immigration, and vows that were never fully met.

Finally, the tension and dissatisfaction boiled over, and around one month ago some detainees broke out of the centre. Around six or seven hundred asylum seekers, in a sign of protest, headed towards the Christmas Island airport in a desperate hope that someone might hear their voices. For two days, from March 11, after bringing down fences, hundreds of asylum seekers freely came and went from the detention centre. Immigration Department spokespeople repeatedly described the events as peaceful. However on Sunday afternoon, Serco decided there had to be a “show of force”. A “snatch and grab” operation was approved by the Department of Immigration, and eventually they captured twenty people, whom they named as ringleaders of a peaceful protest.

This not only did not help to calm the situation down, but created more anger and frustration among other detainees, as when they asked their friends from Serco staff, the staff flagrantly lied to them and told them that all 20 people had been transferred off the island.

However they had in reality gone nowhere but inside a high security compound called Red Compound. Not surprisingly, other detainees responded to the arbitrary arrests, and broke into the high security Red Compound in an attempt to free the 20 people who had been taken away in handcuffs. It was then that the police used tear gas and fired beanbag rounds. Such was the brutality of the police action that some three asylum seekers were trapped inside the Red Compound as they were shooting tear gas, and because their window was half broken the smoke got in and they were about to suffocate inside before one of the Serco staff managed to let them out just in time. Another asylum seeker’s leg was broken by the police beanbag rounds. When we talked to him and asked him what had happened, he said it was a real bullet that caused it, since he could see a hole the size of a 10-cent coin in his foot. Beanbag round bullets are not capable of causing such severe injuries.

The very next day, government decided to send an independent group to listen to detainees’ concerns. The group consisted of three people. During a meeting they had with around 200 detainees, they promised to pass on asylum seekers’ concerns to the minister of immigration via phone while they were on the island. They asked detainees to be calm while they were negotiating with the minister. All detainees agreed, but they stated that they would continue their peaceful protest whilst the negotiations were happening.

The next night, asylum seekers assembled in peaceful protest. They carried white sheets and strips of toilet paper as white flags. They even had flowers to give to the police, but the protest was again met with tear gas. Events escalated from there. This behaviour from the police enraged the crowd, and some lost their control and started to cause property damage by setting some tents and canteens on fire and smashing CCTV cameras.

Fires destroyed the tents and some canteens in the Aqua and Lilac compounds, while police flooded the detention centre with more tear gas and fired more beanbag rounds. All this vandalism was strongly condemned by most of the protesters, and some fights even broke out between peaceful protesters and those who were damaging the place. The protest was condemned and violent, however no one from Serco, the police or the detainees were injured. It is the asylum seekers who were victims of police violence. One asylum seeker had his chin torn up after being shot in the chin by a beanbag round. There were many more who got shot in their face and arms.

Around two or three days after the riot, police decided to retaliate by intimidating and humiliating Iranian detainees by locking up about 200 of them in the centre gym on their new year’s eve. They even threw firecrackers inside the gym, and after doing so police and Serco staff started laughing at detainees’ fright caused by the blast. After locking the detainees in the gym for the night, the next day some of the Serco officers, with a group of around 60 police guards, came to the gym and picked different people according to a book that Serco had provided. The book was designed by Serco which in it they had detainees’ photos who they believed were the rebels and rioters. The way they took people, handcuffed, with another police guard filming the whole scene, was so downgrading and humiliating that the pain felt was much more painful than even the pain caused by bean bag rounds. Any physical scar will eventually go away, but a scar on a person’s mind and spirit will stay for a long time, and the effect of it will likely cause all sorts of psychological disorders and traumas.

The same story of humiliating detainees was happening in other compounds also. Police guards, with the help of Serco, went to the rooms of people whose names were in their book. Police raided the rooms very early in the morning with guns in their hands, pointing at people and asking them to go with them. They even smashed the table that Iranian detainees had decorated for their new year’s day, and threw away the things on the table.

By selecting about 100 detainees and taking them to a compound called White 1, they (Serco and Police) wanted to demonstrate to other detainees that they were the troublemakers who caused all the damage. Around six to 700 detainees were involved in the protest, however because of lack of management by Serco and police, and also lacking a system to track people who had caused the damage (despite all the sophisticated security systems and CCTV cameras), they took the dignity of some innocents away without any solid evidence, and proof based solely on Serco’s fantasy and assumptions. They locked them up inside White 1, and did not give them their personal possessions. They didn’t provide people with any blankets or sleeping sheets. They used every way they could to provoke the people inside White 1 Compound to take some desperate action. In this case, they could easily stick the label of troublemakers and rebels much more easily to them, and prove to other detainees and to the government that they had caught the right people.

After keeping the people inside that compound for 15 days, without proving their crimes, and without any individual approaching them and telling them why they were being locked up, the tension rose to the point that one Kuwaiti detainee tried to hang himself inside the toilet but was very lucky to be noticed by his mates and they saved him.

Another some 50 decided to do a mass self harm.  Having heard the news, a representative from Serco and DIAC came to talk to detainees in White 1 Compound, bringing with them a list with the names of 10 people who were to be transferred to the mainland. Some of those were the representatives of the people in White 1. Again, the way they transferred them out of the island was another example of character assassination and humiliation for a crime and offence that was not proven. They were escorted by about 30 Serco officers ad some 20 AFP undercover police. When they were boarding the plane, some people were filming the whole scene in order to show to the Australian public that the main instigators of the riot were transferred away from the island. When they arrived in the Sydney detention centre, they were forced to sign a paper by Serco staff stating that “We are alleged to be the main instigators of the disturbances on the island”. When some people said that they needed to talk to their agents about it, Serco staff didn’t allow them, explaining that if they did not sign the paper they would be taken to a worse place.

Is this called justice here in Australia? Is this the way people get treated in a country that boasts about its humanitarian efforts? Accusing people of an offence that they haven’t committed, without any solid proof or evidence, is something that happens in dictatorship governments. Does this country follow the same dictatorship system as our own countries?





Comrade Equus: Anti-authoritarianism and Unions

30 03 2011

Editors note: Trusted sources have reported sightings of the good Comrade Equus in around the American Midwest, fomenting dissent and acting as a general public-nuisance in his fight against the forces of evil. The good Comrade has taken notice of recent discussion in libertarian and Anarchist circles denouncing unions and collective action.  He is not pleased.  He has taken time off his subversice activities to contribute the following to the discussion as part of his role as special contributor on this blog. Comrade Equus reports

 

Here in the US there’s all kinds of talk right now about recent legislation in the Midwest that restricts or eliminates the power of unions.

Most Libertarian and Anarchist bloggers reported on Madison and offered some opinion on the matter. I was surprised to see how many were willing to throw public sector workers under the bus.

Basically the argument is that unions are hanging onto government ensured privilege, followed by a laughable assertion that your high school teacher makes six figures every year, while the regular private sector worker toils under the stress of the system.

There are a few things that need clarification.

There is a difference between asking and taking

The labor movement started in opposition to The State and the employing class.

They slowly but surely calmed down and more or less became puppets of the Democrats. However, they are markedly separate from The State in that they have demonstrated a willingness to act outside of legal channels when attacked. This is not a matter of holding onto government given privilege, but an example of unions fighting The State.

The State has tried to strip them of collective bargaining rights, and they are fighting back.

Perhaps they would bend to similar concessions under a Democratic governor, but perhaps next time they will not.  After seeing unions stand up like this, I am beginning to think that the labor movement is not as dead as we once thought.

Workers in the US died for the rights they have now.  Unions (at least the rank and file members, not so much the leadership) are starting to realize they cannot just ask The State to give them something. They are perhaps beginning to just take it.

These bills empower The State

The anti-union legislation in Wisconsin that took away collective bargaining gave more power to The State.

The laws passed in the Midwest did not stop the government from employing people, and at best simply set up a way of contracting private sector companies. The State is still in a position of employment. Instead of having to bargain with unions as a whole they can now deal with each worker individually, resulting in pay discrimination and benefits being taken away. This will only stratify society more, give some more political, economic, and social powers over others and basically expand authoritarianism in general.

Public Sector Unions have certainly been subservient to The State, and their leadership deserves a lot of criticism.

However, these bills have taken power from the unions (which would continue to exist independent of The State) and given it to The State. No doubt that unions have their own hierarchies and problems, but now all they have fought for (wages, 8-hour days, benefits) are directly in control of The State and the companies with which it contracts.

Where we are

As it stands, Democrats have been pretty good at saving face. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusion too quickly though.

Students have been some of the most ardent fighters lately, and they are the future union members and workers. It is, after all, their future that’s being fucked.

If young people can go beyond just protesting and begin to build sustainable, anti-authoritarian alternatives to The State, then we’re starting to get revolutionary.

I, for one, would expect much more fighting from the Midwest. I visited there once. If I learned anything important, it’s that Midwesterners can do two things better: brew their own beer and fight.





Union members and Anarchists join forces in Lansing, Michigan

20 03 2011

According to sources, the Lansing protests seem to have lit a spark.  Union members demanding their rights have shown a willingness to work outside legal and bureaucratic channels as they worked side-by-side with young people and Anarchists.

Below are two videos recorded during the protests.  They document the resistance protesters gave to police as they began to remove those who had been arrested.  After a while, the police just start arresting people in the crowd.

The first video documents the resistance of protesters to the police as they began to remove those arrested students.  Eventually they just arrest those in the crowd.

The second video is a better quality footage of the above.

The Lansing protests saw union members stood with Anarchist radicals, even while union bureaucrats denounced them.  Streets were blocked and students were arrested, however there is unfortunately no footage of these acts.





Newspaper Anaesthesia

24 05 2009

I don’t usually know what to expect from the local newspapers.  The general consensus among everyone seems to be that they are not worth the read, particularly due to their bias, lack of understanding and that naughty little habit of standing up to demand from the powers that be some new element of a fascist police state.  Yet, even with this in mind, I persisted in performing the same ritual as thousands of other South Australian’s on a Sunday morning and cracked open the Sunday Mail.

Somewhere between the articles concerning truancy, which made the front page, calls for the police to saturate Hindley street and a badly written editorial towards the end that lamented the rise of video games with a sort of ‘back-in-my-day’ feel (written by someone who could not have been more than 20).

The two pieces devoted to truancy alone completely missed the point.  I have high standards, I admit, but the grasp of the fundamental issue by each article’s author was non-existent.  I like a little more from my newspapers than the logic behind, ‘kids missing school is bad, we need the strong arm of the law to deal with it, or create some statutory mechanism to punish truants by making it more difficult to get a license’.  Of course this all sounds well and good, with the obvious fact that it’s completely wrong.  The reason for most truancy, is that the current formulation of ‘school’, is a prison.  Where else in the world must a person be forced to spend their time in a place where the routine is dictated to them from on high, where they must ask permission to do so much as piss and where guards with dogs and guns patrol the perimeter.  Perhaps it can simply be said that so many kids of high school age are truants because they don’t want to be there.  Even the teachers, many of whom are intelligent, bright people and actually give a damn about these kids, often don’t want to be at school and must not only put up with a similar domination by the powers that be, but are themselves forced to run their classes like a concentration camp.  In many cases, that fact that many kids don’t want to be there impacts negatively on the kids that do, leading to all the bullying problems, and even, the problems our society is facing in regards to teen drinking.

But, the argument goes, that education is a right and the kids are missing out on the prospects for better employment or higher education and so on and so forth.  The problem here arises where a right is something that an individual may or may not choose to exercise.  A child not attending school isn’t the violation of that right, so long as the opportunity is there.  As for the whole ‘jeopardising’ the child’s prospects, it is in my experience and the experience of others who I talked to that kids who do not want to be in school, generally aren’t looking to be a astro-physicist, let alone want to spend another 3 years of their lives in university.

As for younger children, primary schooling becomes more a case of baby-sitting.  Experts will often say this time of a child’s life is critical and that they need schooling and so on.  But in the end primary school achieves nothing.  Children from the ages of 5-9 are taught to colour inside the lines and make pretty creations out of paper, card and so on.  The thing about primary school is that it’s about socialising with others and learning the basics of reading, writing and math.  Unfortunately, it’s not like kids miss much when they don’t attend.

There also leaves something to be desired when a writer demands that statutory offences be applied to truants; it stands to reason that if you want to help them avoid a life of crime, it doesn’t help to introduce them to the criminal justice system for ‘wagging’ school at 12.

After truancy, came a massive article discussing the need for more police on Hindley street to curb the violence or whatever.   Now, it’s been said before and it needs to be said again, Hindley street is the only street in Adelaide with real character; there are people there from all walks of life come to frolic and on occasion, vomit.  The street has its nay-sayers that love to point out all that bad that is frequent there, but as in the words of comedian Dylan Moran, ‘so is everything else, including sex, coffee and conversation.’  Still, the nay-sayers go on and, in their mind, the only solution to the decadence of Hindley street is to saturate the place with police in a manner truly reminiscent of Singapore.  Unfortunately, the downside to this isn’t mentioned; that if there isn’t stuff going on to arrest people for and there a whole bunch of paid, bored police, saturating Hindley street, stuff gets created… once again, reminiscent of Singapore.  Just without the bribes.

While it may be better of me to avoid bringing attention to the small editorial towards back of the ‘news’ section of the paper, I’m going to do so anyway.  On principle.  The piece, as I said earlier, is the poorly written opinion of someone in their 20′s getting a head start on the nostalgia that plagues the elderly, conservative mindset — the kind of people that propose national service as a solution to all the country’s problems.  Basically, ‘video games are bad’ is the battle cry and the author laments the decline in plastic lego blocks and Barbie dolls, even though I suppose the author is ‘concerned’ about global warming and a reduction in lego blocks and Barbie dolls might does the planets ecology a little good, what with all that oil be used to create little plastic blocks and unrealistic representations of woman-hood.  There was also included a comment made by a researcher at Adelaide university claiming that video games do not stimulate the imagination; and he would be right save for the existence of entire genres of games designed, specifically, to stimulate the player’s imagination such as RPG’s, Simulations (Sims2 and Life, for example, as well as the entire Sid Meier portfolio) and even those dastardly strategy games.  Don’t even get me started on how playing video games has lead many people into programming or anohter area of the IT industry, where they have to be creative problems solvers.

So we come to our conclusion and my justification for spending 935 or so words ranting about the quality of material in a newspaper.  My reason is because these are the people who have control over what is discussed over coffee at breakfast tables and in cafes, but more importantly, the scope of that conversation.  It is all too often portrayed that the only solution to our problems lies in the hands of the state, to be paid for by sacrificing what liberty we have for greater restrictions — a process which will only end moments before we realise we have hung ourselves from the rafters with the red tape we demanded.








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