Saturday 13th June – Free the Refugees: National Day of Action
Coronavirus Lockdown Day 83
1,065 cases: 1 new (5 active).
Free the Refugees: Brisbane / Meanjin – National Day of Action
I drove into the refugee protest at Kangaroo Point. The police closed the road an hour earlier than expected—which made everything look very empty for a while—but people did eventually show up. The protest itself was peaceful, though it was touch-and-go at a few points.
One of the protesters phoned in to the PA system and told everyone that his son was in the crowd, and all he wanted to do was hug him. The crowd decided this was something they could achieve, started chanting “let him hug his son”, and surged into the relatively-unprotected carpark area at the front of the hotel, and would most likely have broken down the fence had not police rapidly formed a circle around the fence. There was a very tense standoff until Jonathan Sri took back the microphone and got most of the protesters to leave the carpark area while the police negotiated with “their federal counterparts” to see if the man could be allowed to hug his child. The man actually got to within a few metres of the child and his mother—up on a balcony above them—but was not allowed any closer. People were not happy, but didn’t do anything about it.
The police tried to reopen the road an hour before the organisers thought they could—at 4 instead of 5—and again people were not happy, and initially resisted. Police chose the heavy-handed route and a huge police presence was brought in, and a line of police—backed by a line of reversing police vans—began walking towards the protesters. Again, it was Jonathan Sri who had a quick chat with the police boss and got the crowd to agree to stop resisting and move off the road.
After the police opened Main Street, and most of the protesters and the media had left, a smaller group of protesters continued to occupy Walmsley Street—a much smaller side street. Around 6:20 a whole pile of police turned up to close down the rest of the protest and allow a dinner van to enter the refugee compound—apparently the refugees hadn’t had any food because of the protest. The police seemed like they wanted a fight—every time something happened that could be deescalated, they took the most aggressive approach. Eventually—after some unprovoked pushing from the police, and a couple of people being given move on orders—Jonathan Sri was given a move-on order. As his car and all his gear were spread all over the place being used as the PA, they let him collect his stuff first—with two police following him like he was a naughty schoolboy who was going to run away. After collecting his stuff Jonathan drove off, but as soon as he had gone around a corner—where, suspiciously, no one could see him—the police arrested him for failing to move on, and dragged him back towards their van. People quickly noticed this and panicked, trying to stop him being arrested—protesters sat down in front and behind the police van.
The police were very brutal in their removal of the protesters—one girl was pushed so hard she flew two metres backwards and hit me, and another was dragged across the bitumen, while those sitting down were manhandled out of the way. It only took the police a couple of minutes to clear a path for their van, and to remove it—and Jonathan Sri—from the area.
Two ambulances were called to treat those the police had injured, and then—their job done—the police left.
Let Him Hug His Son
The protest almost turns violent as the crowd tries to force the police to allow a refugee (who is locked inside) to hug his son (who is in the crowd with his wife).
The police moved in to close the protest an hour earlier than the organisers were expecting. After a tense stand-off and negotiations with Jonathan Sri, the police allowed the protest to continue until 5 o’clock.
After most of the protesters–and all the media–had gone home, the police turned violent. Jonathan Sri was arrested, and two ambulances were called.