The Victorian Labor government is continuing with its campaign to further criminalise protest activity. Last month ten people who participated in the protests against the Melbourne G20 summit in November 2006 were sentenced in the Magistrates Court.
Of the ten who pleaded guilty to charges including riot, affray and assault, five have been sentenced to community-based orders and the other five received jail sentences, which have been fully suspended. Four will also have to pay compensation to the Victoria Police.
Twenty eight people in total had charges laid against them arising from incidents at the G20 protests. These charges came after a Victoria Police Taskforce was set up to investigate the protests and harass and intimidate activists. All of these charges, some of which carry a maximum penalty of up to 25 years jail, are trumped up and politically motivated.
It is clear that some of the protesters who attended the G20 demonstration did dismantle police barricades and cause minor damage to a police brawler van. This however does not equate to a riot or even affray. The damage that occurred on the day was minor and should be treated as such. These charges are clearly political and aimed at cracking down on political dissent.
In march Monash University student Akin Sari was also sentenced to a minimum of 14 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to aggravated burglary and theft, two counts of common assault and riot, and three counts of criminal damage.
Four children also face serious charges including riot and affray. Their case is being heard in the Children’s Court. Thirteen others who have refused to plead guilty to these trumped up charges have been sent to trial in the County Court.
Through pursuing these activists the Victorian Labor government is hoping to demoralise sections of the anti-capitalist movement and tie them up in expensive defence campaigns. They also want to lower the threshold for political charges such as riot and affray in order to set a precedent for future protests.
If nothing else this case shows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. For example the delegates who attended the G20 summit in 2006 had amongst their ranks some of the world’s biggest war mongers, exploiters and climate change criminals.
Under the current system these people will never even see the inside of the court room for their crimes let alone a jail cell. In fact the Labor Party and the Victoria Police rolled out the red carpet for their big business mates and worked hard to ensure their meeting went ahead.
In contrast when ordinary young people come out to protest the horrors of a world dominated by the interests of the rich and some minor property damage occurs they are forced to meet the full force of the law.
Whilst the Socialist Party did not agree with the tactics used by all of the protesters at the G20 demonstration in 2006, we fully support those arrestees who are standing firm against this intimidation and the attempts to criminalise protest activity. We stand firmly against the Labor Party and their attack on democratic rights.
We demand that all of the charges against all of the G20 arrestees be dropped. We demand that Akin Sari be released from jail and that the community based orders and suspended sentences be withdrawn. No compensation should be given to the Victoria Police. Today it is the G20 protesters tomorrow it could be anyone else who stands against the system.
By SP reporters