Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faine presses Doyle to support Occupy inquiry

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was repeatedly pressed to support an independent inquiry regarding police actions at the first Occupy Melbourne protest when he appeared yesterday on 774 ABC Melbourne's Mornings program with Jon Faine.

In what became a combative interview, Doyle resisted independent scrutiny of the actions of authorities, including himself, in forcibly evicting protesters from City Square back on Friday, 21 October.

Faine's persistent questioning provides a valuable insight into the Lord Mayor's attitude to peaceful, democratic protest.

In my own comment, I sought to refute Doyle's flawed argument that force was justified if the protesters failed to live up to a claimed but disputed agreement to leave. I also considered whether we could have seen a death in similar circumstances to that of Ian Tomlinson at the London G20 protest in April 2009.

Interestingly, The Guardian now reports that Occupy London protesters will be "allowed" to stay at St Paul's Cathedral until the New Year, in stark contrast to the approach adopted by authorities in Melbourne. London authorities have considered legal action to remove protesters, rather than adopt the heavy-handed approach we have seen here.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to go to Faine's blog and make a comment after listening to the audio. Here's the comment I made yesterday:
Thanks for supporting the call for an independent inquiry, Jon.

The question of police protest violence is indeed an urgent matter of public interest that Lord Mayor Robert Doyle seems desperate to avoid.

Even if we grant that there was an agreement for the protesters to leave - which I'm confident they would not grant - their claimed failure to follow through would not licence the kind of excessive force employed by Victoria Police at the Occupy Melbourne protest.

An independent inquiry would examine the evidence and also the legal basis relied on to forcibly evict. If Robert Doyle is so confident that authorities, including himself, acted correctly, he should undertake to resign should an independent inquiry show that action against the protesters was illegal.

Further, it is worth noting that a UK police officer has recently been committed to stand trial for manslaughter over the April 2009 death of an innocent bystander, Ian Tomlinson, at the G20 protest in London.

Comparing footage of that event with footage from the Occupy Melbourne protest, the relative levels of violence suggest we could easily have seen a death here, and for what? To assert arbitary power to crush a peaceful protest?

Thanks again for pursuing this issue.

Cheers, Darren Lewin-Hill
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