Adelaide: Cory Bernardi’s office trashed

The mess the protesters left in the Senator’s reception area. Picture: Mark Brake

18 March – 18 March – The “full force of the law” should be brought to bear on protesters who trashed Senator Cory Bernardi’s office and targeted his children’s school, he says.

The university students and high-school pupils, who were protesting against his opposition to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program and ongoing debate about same-sex marriage, engaged in abuse, vandalism and threats.

Student protesters left graffiti and rubbish strewn about in Senator Cory Bernardi’s Kent Town office in Adelaide.

Both Flinders and Adelaide universities released statements condemning the action.

Branding the protesters “a bunch of cowards”, Senator Bernardi labelled the fracas a form of intolerance and intimidation that only “strengthened his resolve”.

He said: “They also headed down to my children’s school and sought to target it as well. They had to lock gates and take other preventive measures.

“If peaceful protests turn into violent and damaging protests the people responsible for that need to be held to account.

“I’m happy for the full force of the law to be brought upon those who’ve done property damage and threatened my staff.”

A police officer inspects the damage in Senator Cory Bernardi’s reception area. Picture: Mark Brake A student protester scrawls a chalk message on the carpet at Senator Cory Bernardi’s office. Picture: Mark Brake

Police reported one man for graffiti damage to a road sign and are reviewing CCTV evidence from the scene.

There were young people and people on their first day at work at his Kent Town office, he said.

About 20 students — from Adelaide and Flinders universities, UniSA and high schools — occupied the Grenfell St office at noon and scrawled abusive messages on the outside walls and veranda.

They also overturned tables and chairs, wrote messages in chalk on the carpet and chanted slogans such as “racist, sexist, anti-queer, Bernardi is not welcome here”.

Senator Bernardi’s wife, Sinead, and staffers retreated into other rooms.

Once police arrived, the students went outside, knocking over a fence on their way and leaving paper and rubbish strewn around the office. One sign read: “Eat rainbow, bigot.”

Senator Bernardi tweeted: “What a bunch of cowards. Lefty totalitarians have trashed my office and threatened my staff because their agenda has been exposed.”

Tom Gilchrist, Adelaide University’s Student Representative Council president and several other SRC members from the socialist group Student Voice were among the protesters.

Student protesters left graffiti and rubbish strewn about in Senator Cory Bernardi’s Kent Town office in Adelaide. Picture: Mark Brake

They included SRC ethno-cultural officer Angelo Tavlaridis, who was last year banned from campaigning on campus after allegedly calling one female student a “c …” and another a “bitch”.

The protesters rip up pamphlets in Senator Cory Bernardi’s reception area. Picture: Mark Brake

One of Senator Bernardi’s employees, Adelaide University Union board member Robert Katsambis, then passed censure motions against Mr Tavlaridis’ behaviour and Mr Gilchrist’s failure to condemn it.

Mr Gilchrist defended the protesters’ actions on Friday, saying the damage was “completely superficial, paper and chalk — things that can be cleaned off easily”.

The protesters knocked down a fence outside Senator Cory Bernardi’s office. Picture: Mark Brake

“This is nothing compared to the damage being done to LGBTI people,” he said of the Federal Government’s decision to “gut” the Safe Schools program, announced on Friday shortly after the protest.

“That is the really disgusting thing.”

The protesters chant slogans as Senator Cory Bernardi’s staff take shelter in another room. Picture: Mark Brake

During the office protest, the students claimed they were heading to the school because it was where Senator Bernardi was educated. Mr Gilchrist later said they had not caused any disturbance at the school.

A police officers speaks to one of the demonstrators. Picture: Mark Brake

“We put up the banner and walked away,” he said.

Senator Bernardi was a vocal critic of Safe Schools, a program to prevent bullying on gender and sexuality grounds.

Senator Cory Bernardi with Easter eggs at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Picture: Kym Smith

He said the program was intimidating, indoctrinating, and bullying children by picking on heterosexual children.

Pressure from backbenchers forced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to announce a review of the program. Tensions over the issue heated this week to the point where Queensland MP George Christensen tried to link the program to paedophilia and started a petition calling for a full inquiry.

On Friday, the Government released the review and announced a compromise, radically altering the way the program works but saying it would remain in place.

The protest dispersed after police officers arrived. Picture: Mark Brake

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