Melbourne: Prosecutors drop case against Jamie Williams

Jamie Williams (right) leaves court after federal prosecutors dropped their case against him. Mr Williams had been accused of trying to fight against Islamic State

9 Feb – Federal prosecutors have dropped a criminal case against a Melbourne man who was accused of trying to fight in the Middle East against Islamic State.

Jamie Reece Williams, 29, had been charged with a single count of engaging in conduct to prepare to enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in hostile activity, following his arrest by anti-terrorism police in late 2014.

But in a decision that will likely have ramifications for the Australians who have been investigated for engaging in the fight against Islamic State, and those who want to travel to the Middle East to do so, a federal prosecutor told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday the charge against Mr Williams would be withdrawn.

Continue reading “Melbourne: Prosecutors drop case against Jamie Williams”

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Brisbane: Students occupy Peter Dutton’s Office

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12 Feb – Early Friday morning in Brisbane, university and TAFE students occupied federal immigration minister Peter Dutton’s office.

Sitting in the cramped public space, we chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”.

Behind the locked doors, Dutton was nowhere to be seen.

Framed in the foyer are numerous awards and messages, including a mental health awareness poster. Lauren Saunders, NUS Women’s Officer for Queensland pointed out the irony:

“Many of the asylum seekers are here in Australia to be treated for the psychological trauma they have suffered on Nauru – and now they are being sent back to an island camp which is not fit for human beings.”

She indicated to a number of framed children’s drawings on the walls of Dutton’s office. “We can see a giraffe and bicycles here. Meanwhile children locked in detention are drawing pictures of themselves committing suicide.”

After two hours, media arrived. When one of our representatives stepped outside to speak with them, 14 police clamped down on the occupation.

A follow up action took place in King George Square at 5pm to demand the government #letthemstay.

The protest coincides with another action in Sydney this morning where activists have placed 37 cribs along Bondi Beach to symbolise the 37 babies facing removal.

 

NZ: Gay Cops are Still Cops

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12 Feb – Over the past couple of weeks, No Pride in Prisons has placed increasing pressure on the Pride Board, and the Auckland queer community more generally, to ban uniformed police officers from the pride parade. As we now know, the Pride Board chose to disregard legitimate concerns with that institution being included. A common response to these concerns, from uncritical members of the community, has been: “What about the gay cops? Aren’t they a part of our community? Who are you to ban members of the community?”

To that, we ask: What is the queer community? The decision as to whether police can march in a pride parade is the kind of decision which determines what kind of community we are. Are we a community of marginalised peoples? Are we a community which cares about other marginalised peoples? Or, are we more concerned with consolidating the privileges of the most privileged within our ‘community’?

Cops have no place in any queer community made up of marginalised peoples. This is because it is the role of the police to uphold the privileges of the powerful, and maintain the marginalisation of the oppressed. How do they do this? As an institution, the New Zealand Police has admitted that it has an ‘unconscious bias’ against Māori. This is played out in the New Zealand Police apprehending and charging Māori at a rate that far surpasses that of Pākehā for the same crimes.

Police target and oppress other and overlapping marginalised peoples as well. You may have seen police harassing homeless people or people they suspect of being sex workers. No Pride in Prisons has received reports from trans women who have been violently assaulted by police and arrested for the supposed crime of “walking while trans”. The police’s targeting and criminalisation of certain groups is part of what makes and maintains their marginalisation. Community is required so that those on the margins can continue to survive. In other words, the police’s actions make the community necessary. As a result, cops are not and never will be part of a community of marginalised peoples.

Continue reading “NZ: Gay Cops are Still Cops”

Vic: ‘Let them stay’ bridge protest

11 Feb – Two protesters who suspended themselves from a Melbourne bridge with a banner imploring the federal government to let asylum seekers facing deportation stay in Australia are back on the ground.

Katherine Woskett, 25, and Hannah Patchett, 22, began their protest on the Yarra Bend Road overpass on the Eastern Freeway alongside a “let them stay” banner at 7.30am on Thursday.

They want to stop the imminent deportation of 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies, from Australia to Nauru.

A High Court decision on February 3 cleared the way for their return following a failed challenge against Australia’s offshore processing arrangements.

Ms Woskett and Ms Patchett’s protest ended after about three hours when they came down on their own accord and spoke to waiting police officers, who confiscated their banner.

“The pair left pending further inquiries,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman told journalists.

It’s unclear if the women will be charged but police have told them to expect a summons in the mail.

The pair had widespread support on social media, as well as from asylum seekers in detention.

“All day we have been receiving messages from refugees who are actually in detention centres,” said protest spokeswoman Helen War.

NZ: Government minister Anne Tolley’s office firebombed

The smashed door glass shows where the firebomb entered Tolley's Whakatane office.

5 Feb – Molotov cocktails were thrown into Government minister Anne Tolley’s Whakatane office overnight and anti-TPPA graffiti was scrawled on a wall outside.

Police said Tolley’s office was under police guard following the attack, which comes at a time of high tensions over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The attempted firebombing comes after vandals broke into Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee’s Christchurch office on Monday morning and poured fuel in a room before leaving.

“When the police tell you that it’s a pretty determined effort, it does shake you up a bit – they went to a lot of trouble to try and burn my office down, so it’s a bit scary, and pretty tough on the staff.”

“I think the police patrol caught it quite early on…if it had been on carpet or something that could have caught alight quickly.”

Tolley said she hadn’t expected any attacks on her office, with anti-TPPA marches in her electorate run in a “well-organised and well-contained” manner.

“Some people get quite aggressive when they’re talking to you, but generally people are quite reasonable – they’re passionate, but violence is an extreme reaction.”

The office would be closed over the weekend while police finished their work and damage was dealt with, Tolley said.

In a statement, Prime Minister John Key said he was disappointed by the attack.

“People always have the right to peaceful protest and are free to do so, as long as they don’t break the law or put anyone in harm’s way.

“Incidents like these are hugely disappointing because our MPs work incredibly hard for their communities as do the staff who work in their offices. They have a right to feel safe in their workplaces and I would urge people to respect that.”

The fire appeared to have happened overnight but had been reported to police soon after 7am, said Senior Sergeant Denton Grimes of the Bay of Plenty District Command Centre.

“From a police point of view it’s now determining what caused it and who is responsible, if it’s suspicious.”

Auckland: Rowdy demo against TPP shuts down city streets

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5 Feb – The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement was signed at Sky City in Auckland this morning, amid large protests in the central city.

Detective Superintendent Richard Chambers has spoken about the large police operation in central Auckland.

He said there were no arrests made and several hundred officers were involved in the operation.

He is aware of images circulating of police being “heavy handed” (aka pulling protesters by their hair, throwing them on the ground, and beating them with batons and fists, twisting arms and choking protesters with illegal holds.) but says he is confident they operated appropriately to stop people from running onto on-ramps and putting themselves at risk.

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“There have been thousands of people in the city, many of those people were there to voice their thoughts on TPP,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed there were a group among them who chose to disrupt traffic.”

He says officers were abused, had their clothing and hats pulled, but displayed “outstanding professionalism”.

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A massive group of protesters had gathered at the intersections of Victoria West St and Hobson St, while a steady stream of protesters also made their way down Nelson Street, parallel to Hobson Street, while chanting profanities directed at police.

A large number of people from several iwi groups had gathered at Victoria Park, and later boarded buses heading for Waitangi.

“The world is watching the hikoi today, whanau,” one of them said.

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Thailand: Vendors Shut Down Police Counterfeit Crackdown

Angry vendors went on a rampage Wednesday when officers arrived to seize counterfeit products being sold in Sa Kaeo province near the border with Cambodia.

3 Feb — Police are licking their wounds after an enraged mob of vendors chased them away when they tried to seize fake goods at a market near the Cambodian border.

Twelve officers were injured Wednesday when police and French Embassy observers went to the Rong Kluea market at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo province to seize items such as fake perfume that violate intellectual property law, according to the Department of Special Investigation.

A DSI statement said about 400 Cambodian laborers surrounded the officers, pelted them with rocks and bottles and pushed over a police pickup truck. It said the police were withdrawn to ease tensions.