Sydney: Queers against Cops respond to attacks

Indymedia: Following the 2013 Mardi gras parade (the corporate gaystream shadow of a radical and militant queer protest in 1978) a video was released online that showed a young shirtless man being choked by a police officer, then slammed headfirst into the pavement while handcuffed.

Outrage quickly spread across the Queer community and far beyond. Within two days, Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) called for a demonstration against police brutality on Friday 8th of March. The rally was to gather at 6pm Taylor square, then to march to Surrey Hills cop shop then back.

Dozens of anarchists and anti authoritarians attended, some came dressed as mock riot cops while others brought about a thousand copies of 6 different leaflets and three large banners reading “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE FUCK THE POLICE” “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS” and “GAY BASHING IS A NSW POLICE TRADITION”. Throughout the demo the large banners were used to protect demonstrators from police harassment.

As we marched from Taylor square to Surrey Hills police station, two banners were used to flank the side of the demo, creating a barrier between the line of riot police and the crowd.
The other large banner was used to create a physical separation between protesters and the line of police horses and arrest vehicles which tailed the end of the rally.

Those carrying that banner marched far slower than the rest of the crowd, and were able to create a large gap between police horses and the demonstration. We have attended many demos in the past where police horses are used to intimidate and harass those at the back of a demo, and to force those marching to hurry up.

Once the crowd arrived at Surrey Hills cop shop, we tied our banner reading “GAY BASHING IS A NSW POLICE TRADITION” from the balcony of the massive pig centre, while some queers held the ACAB banner by the entrance to the cop shop, and the FUCK THE POLICE banner was used to block police horses and their arrest vehicles on Pelican St, and prevent them from coming down onto Goulburn St to where the rally was being held.

While speeches were being made, some of us distributed boxes of chalk throughout the crowd, and a few of us wrote a bunch of anti-police slogans on the steps, balcony floor and across the outside walls of the police station.
Once the demo started moving again a group of us stayed behind and used a banner to block police horses and their vehicles from following the demo back to Taylor square.

After years of attending fairly small demonstrations against police brutality, we were extremely pleased to see cops cowering inside their concrete fortress while thousands of angry queers and activists chanted against police violence.
Hundreds of people thanked us for the leaflets, and for having the courage to carry those banners and keep the horses away. Dozens posed for photos in front of our banners and many people we’d never met asked if they could hold them alongside us.

This text has been written as a response to a small, but very vocal minority at the demo who aggressively opposed our messages and our stance towards the police. Some of them harassed, threatened and abused us, telling us to put our banners away, others ordered us to remove the masks a couple of us were wearing, and one man even kicked our banner and attempted to pull it away from us. Unsurprisingly, the only protesters who confronted us were white, middle aged, cis gendered males. Some of them accused us “not really being a part of the gay community”.

Almost every anarchist and anti authoritarian who handed out leaflets, wore mock police uniforms, held our banners and yelled “fuck the police” instead of the official “stop violent police” chant, was either bi, poly, trans, queer or a poc.
If the “gay community” is just for police loving, middle class white men then fuck that community.

We have no interest in repressing our rage towards those that harass, abuse and incarcerate us and our loved ones out of some bullshit attempt to look tame, safe, and acceptable for the corporate media and straight colonial Australia. We are not gay as in happy but queer as in fuck you.

We found it quite amazing that anyone would be speaking in favour of police at a rally against police brutality. Some of these idiots even told us that “this is only about officer 266, not all cops” or “we’re only here because of one bad officer” or “the police are here to protect us, what would we do without them?” One woman tried to delegitimise our message by taking the microphone and saying ” I want to remind everyone here that this protest is not against the NSW police force, we’re fighting against police brutality, just one bad apple, officer 266 has a lot of questions to answer, but there are a lot of good cops out there, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them”

In response we say fuck you; it’s not about one bad apple, or one single instance of police brutality. Police violence is endemic in the culture and institution of the force and they certainly do not protect us queers. Police are ultimately responsible for upholding property laws that favour rich and often white businessman and professionals. Every day cops fill the prisons with the poor and marginalised sections of the population. While indigenous people they make up 2.3% of the Australian population, they make up about 30% of the NSW and national prison population. In the NT indigenous people make up over 80% of the prison population.

One in 4 homeless youth are queer and many engage in illegal sex work to survive. As such they are systematically targeted and repressed by police and property laws. Following the Friday demo one young homeless queer, accused of swearing at the pigs was arrested, detained and charged with ‘failure to comply with a police direction’ ‘offensive behaviour’ and ‘offensive language’

The reigning status quo and the illusion of social peace is upheld by a constant war on the poor. The ever militarised police act as frontline troops against the nation’s internal enemies, that surplus population that exists without a stake in the market, those who fill the queues in Centrelink and outside charity vans, who live in parks, housing commissions and prison cells.

Anyone who does not have the resources to afford housing or food under capitalism will resort to theft to survive. This survival becomes a criminal offence, an offence for which they will be hunted and incarcerated by the forces of law and order. Any resistance to this oppression will result in being beaten, sprayed, tasered or shot by any and all cops.

Despite what many of the speakers claimed on Friday, the behaviour of officer 266 was not at all out of the ordinary, police violence is business as usual, especially whenever someone fights back.

Anyone who physically challenges the police and is captured is not merely restrained, for police officers it is important to punish that individual, to set an example that no resistance will be tolerated, to reinforce who is in control. The brutalising of Jaime was only significant in that the officer punished a far smaller individual in a large crowd that was filming him. Police usually just twist arms and wrists into unbearable positions while shouting stop resisting louder then you can scream. Often they will wait though, till they have taken you away from onlookers, or pushed onlookers away, often in a police station room without cameras, when they know they can beat you with impunity.

Recent studies and reports by the beat project (www.beatproject.org.au) show that a majority of homophobic violence is not reported :

“Prejudice motivated (homophobic) violence toward the GLBTIQ community continues to be a problem and most incidents will go unreported, especially in regional areas where there are fewer social avenues for men to meet and greater opportunity of violence. Much of this violence is the result of homophobia and community prejudices, and reinforces the shame and stigma often associated with being homosexual.

We are also aware of numerous assaults that were not reported to the police for a variety of reasons, and we were even requested not to report incidents to police by innocent men for fear of retribution by police and further targeting at one location.

Many men have indicated they are reluctant to report homophobic violence due to:
•Previous negative experiences with officers when patrolling beats.
•Fear of retribution from homophobic vigilantes
•Fear of reprisals and further intimidation by police
•Lack of trust in police and the NSW Justice System.

We have also identified numerous incidents of highly questionable behaviour by officers and a systemic failure to adequately address homophobic violence, particularly in regional areas where:
•Officers have not recorded incidents of homophobic violence when reported.
•Officers searching men for condoms, the use of excessive force, the use of homophobic and
derogatory comments, failing to identify themselves when requested.
•Officers engaging in entrapment techniques.
•Officers recording vehicle registrations, then visiting men at their homes.
•Officers telling men they’re on the ‘Sex Offenders Register’
•NSW Police, Crime Stoppers and local councils have also installed signage that incite the
vilification of gay men and re-enforce the misplaced paedophile stereotype.”

As to what we would do without police, we believe passionately in the creation of intentional and autonomous communities or communes as liberating alternatives to life under capital and indeed we believe that if such a community is to survive it must be defended. A commune must be safe space for its members or it must not exist. We do not look toward some imaginary world were all human beings will live in complete harmony, where no one will show aggression toward one another, nor do we believe we can travel to some far away location to escape from the violence of the rest of society.

We encourage those who set out to create autonomous communities to train themselves in individual and collective self defence and to have the necessary tools at hand to confront violence from outside but also from within the community when the need arises.

Despite our dreams, we do not believe police will be abolished tomorrow, to drive the police of the streets requires a mass movement of people who are sick of being policed, far more people then were at the demo yesterday.

Any growing anti-police and anti state movement that can hold territory will need to automatically take over the roles of physical protection and justice or people will demand a return to state policing.

It is important to recognise that most people are currently in prison for financially driven crimes. Not white-collar crimes, but crimes that stem from trying to overcome poverty or survive capitalism. Drug-related crimes have been at the forefront of the growing prison population and while there are occasional exceptions, the majority of those imprisoned for drug-related crimes are from a lower class upbringing. The current war between bikie gangs, is a war for control of underground drug markets, markets that only exist because of the criminalisation of drugs.

Bank robberies, grand theft auto, prostitution, or shoplifting are a few other examples of criminalised professions that stem from the struggle to overcome the poverty of capitalism.

We believe in equality between all people, not equality before the law. As Anatole France said in 1894, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”

We believe in a world without class divisions, police or private property. As the vast majority of crime stems from poverty, the abolition of property from a territory would both also abolish property crime and most anti social crime.

The remaining anti-social violence, particularly oppressive violence directed at queers and women should be opposed by armed and self-organised queer and women’s militias. Punishments for oppressive and violent actions such as rape and murder should be decided by the affected community. While we strongly believe in restorative justice and the chances of rehabilitation for violent individuals, we still do not oppose punitive, violent, or capital punishments for those individuals that a community (collectively) decides have committed a grave and unforgivable offence, though we always oppose incarceration.

We view those that aggressively attempted to silence us, like all queer bashers and cops, as a physical force that desires to police us into assimilation, they are a force that must be opposed by any means necessary.

Following the demo we noticed a barrage of criticism of us and our banners on the event facebook page, some even demanding that any photos of the banners be removed from the page. After investigating the profiles of those condemning us, we found that quite a few identified their career as being a NSW police officer, though there was definitely a dozen or more ‘genuine queers’ (who presumably attended the rally) who wrote vicious attacks against us.
There were comments such as

“Shane Robert Owen: What a stupid sign not all police are bad this is childish”

“Peter Whicker: by what todays paper said the protest done more harm then good because all it talked about was then dumb banners

“Joshua Pierce: it is sad we had a few people with childish sings and that is what hits the media !!!!!”

“Michael Fahey: Glad that I attended last night but like a lot of people deeply disappointed by the sign saying all cops are bastards. Blatantly untrue. Great to see our community get together but attitudes like this gets us nowhere.”

“Marcus Steele: we are mean’t to be a unified community these signs and ya ya’s are not helping the cause/issue/dailogue.”

“Peter Whicker end of the day it was a LGBTI community protest the LGBTI community could of said we dont want that banner here to be correct the paper is only talking about that banner and jamie hitting police so it done more harm done good it should be LGBTI committee so say what banners to have in there that would look bad in the paper an make things worse then what it was”

“Shane Robert Owen: That sign is so childish there are some really stupid people in this world, there are a lot of great police officers around . Very disappointing and embarrassing. the banner holders are not from our community. It is misleading and I am now blocking the poster to make it go away.”

Some cop lovers, who supposedly went to the rally, even made a facebook group titled “All cops are NOT bastards” and someone posted a poorly photoshopped version of our banner, which read “ALL COPS ARE TOPS!!!” We suppose they also mean officer 266.

One self proclaimed queer even made a bizarre and extremely offensive photoshop edit of the same banner, to read “ALL GAYS ARE PEADOS”. This was done by someone calling themselves Jas Joh and posted to the facebook event page with the following message:

“Jas Joh: Not remotely true, just making a point. We need to exemplify our own standards. We don’t need shit banners from dumb organisations. We need to build on the positives, not create negatives.”

According to him, saying all cops are bastards is exactly the same as saying all gays are paedos. This sick logic was then endorsed by a few other so called ‘queers’, such as Nikolas Stewart, Tyson Hayter, & Rosemay Flowers who even ‘liked’ the image.

“Len Strachan: Brilliant!”

“Ian Garland: its that shit aweful thing of stereotyping or tarring one community with the same brush…. good call on that one Jas… it proves that stereotyping is an offence… they gay community hates it, the police community hate it, the straight community hates it…. thankyou for making your point =-]”

Jan went on to say:

“Jan: So the Socialists with their “FUCK THE POLICE” and “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS” are the #1 take away from this for the media. That will be the thing that makes our detractors hate us more, and everyone else feel more indifferent.
THIS IS NOT THE GAY COMMUNITY DOING THIS.
We don’t need fucking Socialists help on this.”

Quite disappointingly, a few people attributed our banners to the two small Leninist sects; Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance that attended the rally with big banners bearing their logo and website address (their usual practice). These authoritarian sects have nothing to do with us or our politics of liberation, and have since attacked us and our banners over the internet (collaborationist media statements condemning revolutionaries facing repression is also a common practice by both groups). Their attendance and attempt at co-opting a queer demo is particularly hypocritical while they proudly praise Evo Morales, the openly homophobic ‘socialist’ president of Bolivia.*

On this territory the only visible queer political ‘movement’ is sadly the campaign for marriage equality. We have no part in that conservative, assimilationist struggle that legitimises the oppressive and patriarchal institution of marriage. We have no interest in promoting or reproducing monogamy or the nuclear family and refuse to reduce our relationships of love and affinity to state registered financial agreements.

We would have written this response sooner but many of us were busy today preparing for and attending the international women’s day march. Unfortunately, very few queers who’d attended Friday’s demo bothered to support the demonstration for women’s struggle the very next day.

It has become disappointingly apparent to us that the majority of Sydney’s ‘gay community’ are not interested in supporting struggles outside of what they conceive to be their very narrow self interests. There were 5 demonstrations against police brutality last year in Sydney, all organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA).

Sadly these demonstrations never exceed a couple hundred people, often less than a hundred. While queer anarchists attended and promoted every single one of these events, the turnout from the mainstream queer community was almost nonexistent.
The difference at the demo on Friday was that the abused young man was white, and the abuse happened at Mardi Gras. Following the more brutal police shooting and bashing of wounded Koori teenagers in Kings Cross in April last year, ISJA called an immediate demonstration which was attended by a couple hundred people from the aboriginal community, a couple dozen angry teenagers, and activists, but none of the thousand odd queers who descended on Surrey Hills police station on Friday.

ISJA is currently mounting a campaign around the death in custody of aboriginal trans woman Veronica Baxter who died in Silverwater, a male prison in 2011. They have called for a demonstration on the 21st of March and are demanding justice and independent inquiry into her death, and an end to the brutal police harassment, abuse and murder of aboriginal people in police and prison custody across the country. We shall see how many people from the mainstream ‘gay community’ feel this is worth their time or their support.

We are freedom loving, cop hating queer hooligans who’ve had enough of police oppression. Police violence is business as usual and if we seek to actually put an end to it, we must be willing to respond in kind. The only thing that could be described as justice in this twisted society, is the revenge of the oppressed and our justice will be found in the streets, not in any courtroom or external police investigation.

QUEERS REVOLT

FUCK QUEER ASSIMILATION

FUCK THE POLICE

*Evo Morales who is constantly championed by Socialist Alliance as some kind of ‘hero’ (quite bizarrely) told an environmental congress in 2010 that homosexuality is a Western disease not native to Latin America, and it is caused by female hormones injected into chickens. “when men eat these chickens they undergo deviations from their masculine being.”

The photo below shows a small solidarity rally by Queer comrades in NZ on Friday. It is encouraging to see that comrades there are not afraid of offending the sensibilities of the cops or corporate media and proudly carry signs reading “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE FUCK THE POLICE”


Their report:

Cop violence requires a response: that was the call out from activists in Sydney this week after cop attacks on young LGBTI people enjoying themselves at Mardi Gras. One young man was thrown to the ground and then stood on. A Sydney activist reports being beaten as he crossed Oxford Street.
The Queer Avengers answered that call, and on Friday 13 people rallied outside the Australian High Commission in Wellington, showing solidarity with demonstrations against police brutality happening in Sydney at the same time.
The NSW police have form – they attacked the first Mardi Gras, an assault for which they have never apologised. Harassment of Aboriginal people, and deaths in custody, are part of Sydney life.
An injury to one is an injury to all, and so we were proud to stand alongside demonstrators in Australia.

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