n ik on Thu, 4 Apr 2002 05:46:11 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] another account of woomera2002 from melbourne.indymedia

Title: another account of woomera2002 from melbourne.indymedi
from melbourne.indymedia:

Woomera 2002 - a first hand account
by obadiah 9:12am Thu Apr 4 '02 (Modified on 10:34am Thu Apr 4 '02)

A first hand account of the protest/solidarity actions at Woomera -- a counter spectacle to some of the prevailing media and police hallucinations about what allegedly went down.

The long road - the advance party

We made the journey overnight from Melboune on Thursday, planning to join up with a group of people who had travelled up on Wednesday night to set up the initial camp. As the night went on we got occasional reports from the group who were already there. It seems that the administrator of the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) had set aside a football oval about 2km away from the detention centre (DC) as the officially approved location for the protest camp. Portaloos and showers had been provided. But this location would make any attempts to communicate with the detainees (face-to-face, by flying kites, chanting or drumming) impossible, and so the advance party set up camp next to a stretch of road between Woomera town and the DC, next to a mobile communications mast and a service station. Another issue with the football oval location, it seems, was that the single entrance was extremely narrow - this was significant both as a health and safety issue, given the 1000-1500 protesters who were expected to turn up, and as forming a chokepoint which would have allowed police to confine the protest within the oval extremely easily. (I must say at this point that I never went down to the football oval myself).

The breakout of detainees was "planned"

Since some media reports have claimed that the breakout of detainees was planned beforehand, I'd better explain at this point that the protest _was_ an impressively planned logistical operation: I was involved in some of the preparatory work (at a very late stage) and was impressed by the amount of thought that had gone into making this a success: among the things discussed when I was there were the layout of the camp (to avoid having the soundstage disturb meetings and sleeping people), water supplies, provision of first aid, communications, legal assistance, independent media, and the making of kites in case it wasn't possible to approach close enough to the detainees to speak to them. But I never heard any mention of breaking detainees out of the DC at these meetings: what was being planned was a peaceful protest action aimed at letting the detainees know of our support, delivering gifts to them and publicising the reality of their condition. It may be that some small groups of people did hope a breakout would occur, or possibly even planned for this amongst themselves - I can't speak for all the estimated 1000 people who were there.

Who organised this protest?

This touches on another misconception that may be produced (or is being deliberately being propagated) by media reports: that what happened this weekend (whatever did happen) was the work of a monolithic, unified organisation. The truth is completely the opposite: part of what was so impressive about the planning of this action was that it involved co-ordinating many different organisations and groups of people - political parties, student organisations, groups of individuals who know each other socially, and the large, adhoc but well-established single-issue groups: No One Is Illiegal and the Refugee Action Collective. The only thing all these groups have in common is opposition to what the government is doing at Woomera and towards asylum-seekers in general. This was what made the weekend the most inspiring three days I've ever experienced: the way that this issue brought everyone together: leftist political groups, Greens, 70-year-olds, students, manual workers, professional workers, environmental collectives, musicians and artists. But it also made some of the overall meetings heated, chaotic or interminable; which is a small price to pay.

Obviously it's to the government's advantage to present the protest as the action of an organisation based on the model of a political party: how threatening it is to see those images of fences being broken down and imagine the sinister underground Front who made this happen, with cells everywhere: check under the bed before you go to sleep tonight! The reality is that some people went along to protest peacefully; it's possible that some people went along looking for a more violent confrontation; some people were there to promote some of the other agendas (Aboriginal land rights, radioactive pollution at Roxby Downs) - everyone went along to help the refugees (in whatever way), and most people went along hoping to get together with like-minded people and have a good time if possible. Does that sound shocking, given the plight of the detainees in the DC? Maybe this kind of fluid, adhoc association of people, with a good sprinkling of music and partying, is the best weapon against the po-faced "responsible adults" who commit inhumanities for our supposed benefit.

Anyway, enough of that: we're still stuck at Thursday night...

The advance party hold their ground - the journey

We heard of some confrontations between the advance party and police. Apparently the party was asked to leave but refused, and managed to stay put in spite of a small police presence. From what I heard, there were some heated verbal confrontations, and maybe a bit of pushing and shoving. When it got dark the party arranged their vehicles in a circle around the camp, to allow the approaches to be illuminated by headlights. At 11:30pm the police made another attempt to remove the party from the site, but failed - again, from what I heard this involved verbal confrontations, possibly with some minor pushing and shoving.

News of this made us even more eager to arrive at the camp as soon as possible. We did almost all of our travelling in darkness, swapping drivers over as needed, while other people sat next to the driver and made sure they were alert and had whatever food and drink they needed. This rushed, cramped, interminable journey, a night of minimal sleep, aching limbs, conversations to your scarcely-visible neighbour that petered out into monologues before you realised that they'd dropped off into a doze, snatched coffee-breaks at service-stations (where many people bought Easter eggs, intending to throw them over the fence to the detainees) was as essential to Woomera 2002 as the action itself: Make the Journey, sez the website, and we did: through western Victoria under a clear sky and the full moon: overtaking coaches, minibuses and camper vans that made the highway unexpectedly crowded for this ridiculous time of night (is this just Easter weekend traffic? or has the meeting begun already, at 110kmh?) - to a service station in SA, where the attendant was driven half crazy by the sheer number of people who came pouring out of a motley collection of vehicles, setting off the door alarm almost continuously - into a doze, and out of it again after some unclear amount of time had elapsed, to be faced with a grey dawn and the fringes of the Flinders Range.


Finally to the roadhouse at Pimba, at the turnoff to Woomera from the Stuart Highway, for a quick stop, up a short rise, past Woomera town, and onto a straight stretch of road borderd with what was already looking like a tent city, to cheering and clapping. No time for more than a quick drink - because of the police attention overnight, the preliminary work in laying out the camp was well behind schedule. We set to putting up our tents, in the baking sun, with a harsh wind blowing the red dust into everything as we tried to make tent-pegs stick in the rocky soil.

Why bother to come all this way? We only came from Melbourne - a mere 15 hours' drive! Conversation on the journey constantly came round to the rumours (which proved true) - there are such and sucn many people coming from Sydney - there's a mob from Newcastle - Brisbane's sent a coachload - some people have come from Perth...
Why come all this way just to seek attention, in our feral protest-clothes, to get covered in red dust, to wear silly hats and bang drums? to be bothered. No image of confrontations on the TV can capture the 1300km vista that rolled past the windows before we got there - maybe no representation of what happened there can be accurate, unless each protester on screen carries an overlaid caption, detailing how far they came, how much effort they put into planning, how much of their own money they spent, how many other people - donors, fundraisers, people who wished they could come but couldn't - stand behind each of them.


According to John Howard, most of the Australian population are against us. If this majority feel that strongly about it, let them make the journey and see for themselves - can they be bothered? It's not easy, not if you're a worker, or a student with no money, or a parent, or a homeowner, or a pensioner, or out of work, pressed for time - exactly what we are! Do Howard or Ruddock really care enough about Australia and the supposed threat from the refugees to sew their lips together, throw children into the sea (sorry, I mean throw someone else's children into the sea - no, get someone else to throw their children into the sea - **** it, find a photo of some children in some water and let's go down the pub) or dig graves and lie in them? Maybe if they bothered to do that they'd get our attention.

Some people suggested to me that any demonstration attracts people just out for a fight. If this one did, it attracted them a hell of a long way, when fights can be had for nothing more than a walk to the pub, some beers and a big mouth.

The fiendish organisational efficiency of our revolutionary underground organisation

Once the tents were set up, a "spokescouncil" meeting was called. The idea of a spokescouncil is that each group participating in it sit together, in a wedge or piece-of-pie formation behind their designated spokesperson - only the spokespeople speak, but there is constant feedback between speakers and those they represent. The aim is to produce consensus. In my opinion, this was a great idea, but it didn't work well at all in the situation we were faced with this weekend. The chairpeople had a difficult time trying to keep control of the enormous number of people looking to speak, there were difficulties in setting the agenda, and the focus kept on getting lost. One reason for this was that the structure of the meeting was set up to deal with clearly-defined groups (Judaean Peoples' Front over here, Peoples' Front of Judaea over there, Popular Judaean Peoples' Front - that's him over there (Splitter!!!)) - the reality of Woomera 2002 was that many people didn't come with a group at all - either they got together with some mates, a van and a tent, or they came in one of the group-sponsored buses but then did their own thing once arrived.

Again, just in my opinion, the spokescouncil idea is appropriate to a conference, or discussion - not to a group of 1000 people out in the middle of the desert, surrounded by riot police, trying to work out what the hell to do about an unexpected and difficult situation that seemed to have blown up from nowhere. Hardly any of the meetings I attended resulted in a definitely agreed plan of action, in which everyone would take part - the most effective meeting happened on Sunday, when a woman from the Greens stood up and said we have thousands of dollars' worth of toys, we're going to deliver them to the gate, that's what we're doing, join us if you want to. If I was planning something as complex as breaking detainees out of a detention centre and dealing with the consequences, out in the middle of the desert, a spokescouncil would be on my necessaries list - next line down from the chocolate fireguard.

Friday night - action

Word went out that the detainees were planning an action of their own at 6pm, inside the DC, and that they wanted us to march up to the fence and show support. The most obvious route to the DC was straight along the road. But a chain-link barrier studded with warning notices had been set up across this road, just after the right turnoff to Roxby Downs. Behind this fence the APS (Australian Protective Service) stood around in their sunnies and blue boilersuits looking well 'ard.
Almost everyone in the camp participated in this action in some way. Instead of going towards this barrier, we crossed the road and walked towards the outer fence of the detention centre (which is - sorry, was at right-angles to the road) diagonally,. Police presence around the camp at this time was minimal. It took some time for everyone to work out what was going on, and so my memory of this first approach is of a long straggling line of small groups of 3-15 people, trying out their footwear on the scrub, carrying kites, megaphones, banners, drums, and all sorts of other objects that can make a noise if banged together.
I was well behind the foremost people. To get to the DC we had to walk around an enclosure, roughly 200m square, connected with the service station. As I turned this corner I saw a lot of people setting up video, TV and film cameras on a small mound. Looking towards the fence I saw a thick crowd of people spread along it to a length of about 150m: chanting and making a lot of noise. There were no police, APS or ACM personnel in sight. All that was visible behind the first fence was a series of further fences enclosing large concreted areas. At the time I didn't realise that the real fence of the DC was much further in.

Protestor-proof fence

As I got closer to the fence, I saw that people had climbed up on it. A few moments later they were swinging on it. Only a few more moments, and the fence came crashing down over its entire length - it turned out that this fence was not founded at all, but kept upright by sandbags placed over horizontal structures at the base. As soon as the fence came down most of the crowd rushed inwards into the large concreted area (which I heard referred to later as a footie or soccer field). I went up to where the fence had come down, but didn't go any further, for my own reasons. If you don't like that, get in your car, reset the trip, drive until it reads 1300km, spend three days in a tent being hassled by police, with minimal sleep and food, and then call me a piker.

Looking across the dead fence

This section is based only on what I could see from my position and what I heard from other people (though with the latter, I've tried to only include what I heard from multiple sources).

The crowd marched across the footie ground, and turned left through an open gate into another footie-ground-type area. Then they turned right (I think through another gate) to what seemed to be the real boundary of the DC. I could see police in blue uniforms (rather than APS personnel) lined up over to my left in this area, and there was constant movement of minibuses and police vans across the area. Someone lent me some binoculars, but looking through two fences didn't make the picture much clearer. I could see a lot of movement from our crowd - sometimes individuals or a group would seem to retreat back towards us, but generally these would turn back and join the furthest assembly. For a long time there seemed to be no movement at all from the police.

This went on for about 15-20 minutes (?????). As time went on I could see more movement by the police. At the outer fence, there was a party atmosphere. Two people started playing capoeira just inside the upset fence. A ute drew up carrying a sound system and started playing music. A group of people started playing drums. None of us there knew exactly what was going on inside. Some people were reluctant to go into the DC because it had been so easy to get through the fence that they suspected a trap.

Inside the detention centre

What I heard later from many people was this:

The protestors had gone up to the main fence of the DC, well inside from where I was. This fence is the stout steel one made of vertical girders that you can see on some of the TV footage. The detainees were clearly visible inside. Some of them were up on roofs. There was a lot of communication between the protestors and the detainees, through chanting and face-to-face conversation. It seems that the detainees were kept away from the inside of the fence by a barrier of razor wire, but that some managed to approach the fence. Some of them threw bedding onto the razor wire. Others just threw themselves onto it, and appeared at the fence covered in blood. There were women, children and men screaming. One young woman (protestor) I talked to was in tears when she came back from inside. She said she'd been crying her eyes out continuously, that other protestors, all the detainees and even some police were also crying. She was horrified by the look on the detainees faces, the way a woman's voice kept screaming, breaking every few seconds. It seems that some detainees managed to scale the fence and threw themselves off the top of it. Others managed to bend the vertical girders far enough to slip through.


Suddenly there seemed to be a concerted movement by police. The crowd of protestors came running back towards us. Thinking back, I don't think the police bothered to follow them into the "footie-field" area immediately in front of me. The crowd reached the outer fence: the will to flee spread from them to us who were standing outside, and we ran back towards the camp. At some point I saw two people arm-in-arm with two people who looked Middle Eastern. They started stripping off the Middle Easterners' clothes and handing them other clothes. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. A voice shouted out "stay together, they're arresting people they catch on their own". Ahead of us the view was of rolling scrub desert - miles of it. This was what the detainees had escaped into. I remember thinking - I hope to hell there IS a plan.

Arrests of detainees - confrontations with police

There were no police in the immediate area as we walked or ran back to our camp. As we got closer, we saw a lot of police near the road (which was now between us and the camp). The police were running into the crowd and along the road in groups of (???) 10, picking out people who looked Middle Eastern. I thought "that's it, it's over, they're just going to arrest all the detainees and that's it". As I reached the road there was chaos - people were running in all directions. Every attempted arrest of a detainee attracted a crowd of protestors, who surrounded the police on all sides and confronted them. I'd like to emphasise that, while I was running around joining group after group, i saw not one incident of physical violence from the protestors. We were chanting SHAME and THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING YOU. Police were surrounded by large groups, who confronted them with pointed fingers and words. (these police were in blue uniforms, but were not APS as far as I remember). Many protestors, especially women, went right up to officers and shouted in their faces, asking them if they liked what they were doing, asking them what their families would think of what they were doing. I saw several women taking advantage of the immobilised position of the police to talk to them at length, vehemently but not shouting. Members of the legal team were demanding information about the charges, and trying to find out as many details as possible.

There may have been arrests occurring inside the camp, rather than on the road and in the scrub on the other side of the road (the DC side), but I didn't see any from where I was.

The van surrounded

One detainee was dragged by police towards a police van, parked at the southern end of the camp (the end towards Pimba, away from the APS-guarded barrier). The detainee was put in the van, the door was shut, and police formed a tight group on the back step and around it. A shout of "join arms" went up. We surrounded the van at a distance of about 10 feet and locked arms. Most of the police present stayed by the back step, but others went walking around the van, looking outwards towards us. Meanwhile a woman protestor had climbed up on the step, and was remonstrating with one of the police.

More and more people arrived to join the blockade of the van. Police were unable to move it. We were chanting "we know you're in there" and "we won't forget you". The detainee was banging on the wall of the van from the inside.

After about 20 minutes there was a shout of "HORSES". A group of about 10-15 mounted police came in from the north (the DC direction) at a gallop, shouting at us at the top of their lungs. The human chain parted near where I was standing, and we got out of the way. The horses surrounded the van, and then formed up at the front, and attempted to force a path through the crowd that was now concentrating on that side. I heard later that several protestors were pushed aside by horses, and hit by the police with riding crops - but I didn't see this. Eventually the crowd at the front of the van was broken through - the van started up and drove away. The mounted and foot police formed up in a line to prevent us from following the van.

Another incident I heard about but didn't see was that a protestor became trapped between a police horse and a car. The protestor's partner picked up a rock and was about to throw it at the policeman, but several other protestors nearby restrained him and calmed him down.

The camp surrounded

The next few hours are very hard to remember clearly. One sight I remember most clearly is of a line of police in full riot gear - about 50 of them, lined up along the opposite side of the road from the camp, while the sun set on the scrub behind them. They were standing there, silently. As we looked in other directions we could see that the camp was surrounded.

It was at some time around dusk that I first became aware that there were detainees still uncaptured, in our camp. Rumours were flying. Everybody seemed to know of someone else who knew where a detainee was.
Another spokescouncil meeting was called. This was late on Friday night. The atmosphere in the camp was indescribable - sinister isn't the right word, and surreal doesn't do it either. The spokescouncil was proceeding, as speakers said that it appeared that there were detainees still in the camp. Meanwhile, a woman detainee and her child were sitting inside a marquee tent, surrounded by a double row of locked-arms protestors. All over the camp, there were police wandering about, singly, or in groups of two - there was no confrontation going on.

This spokescouncil was completely ineffectual. No-one was able to come up with a decision as to what to do about the situation.
One woman I spoke to briefly spent two hours talking to a detainee, who had excellent English. She was upset and worried about his safety.

As the night went on, we made sure we never went out of sight of other people. No-one was moving from the camp. Every so often headlights would flash on in the distance, pointing towards us. At some point, I looked out from the camp and saw that the riot police had disappeared as silently as they'd appeared.

Saturday - the roadblock comes down

We formed up on the road, ready to march to the roadblock (this was at the northern end of the camp - where the APS people were on guard). We set off, to a great noise of drums, trumpets and chanting. We reached the roadblock. I was towards the middle of the crowd. Suddenly there was a commotion at the front. The APS personnel stood aside as the roadblock was trampled down and we went through.

We were carrying crates of toys for the children in the DC, and a banner of support that had been signed by people at the Melbourne Palm Sunday rally. As we went through the remains of the roadblock, the group split in two. Half stayed outside, the other half went in. The APS (very few of them - perhaps 10 or 15?) formed a loose line across the line of the roadblock, and the group left outside didn't challenge this line.

Our group inside marched slowly along the road to where a side-track leads to the side, or delivery gate of the DC. We stopped just before this side-track. The atmosphere was festive and relaxed - we were trying to make as much noise as possible so that the detainees could hear us. I could see the "real" fence. At its corner closest to us was a line of about 50 police. Through the fence I could see lines of prefabricated buildings - but there were no detainees in sight.
A large sign proclaimed

Welcome to Woomera (acronym)
An ISO 9000 certified detention centre

maybe the ISO needs to revise its standards on fence construction.

The No-one Is Illegal cheerleaders got going - two men and two women in cheerleader outfits doing their routine, as the drums, trumpet, chanting and instruments went on. I joined a delegation that split off from the main group, to go forward to the police and bring the toys and banner. There were about 6 drummers making great sounds - a woman cartwheeling all the way, and a group carrying the banner spread out. One of our delegation went forward to negotiate with the police while we drummed, cartwheeled and limbo-danced. The result of the negotiation was that we could leave the toys, and they would be taken in to the detainees - but we couldn't leave the banner - or rather, we could, but there was no guarantee that it would be taken inside - only if our group left the prohibited area and went back beyond the roadblock. We decided that we couldn't make the decision on our own, so we left the toys, picked up the banner and marched back to the larger group. There it was decided that we should take the banner back with us and try to get it to the detainees in a different way - perhaps through the Woomera lawyers.

Dancing on the upturned road-block

We marched back to the roadblock, still singing, dancing and drumming. At the roadblock, APS abandoned the line they'd formed. As the two groups joined up, a party broke out - all the drummers starting playing at once, some of them sitting on the upturned remains of the roadblock - two MCs started rapping into megaphones, everyone was banging whatever they had on them in time with the drums and dancing. This went on for about 40 minutes.
All the signs on the roadblock (which stated - this is a prohibited area, enter and be arrested and so on) had been parodied with graffiti. Some people started using the signs as percussion instruments. When we'd run out of energy, the party dissolved towards the camp. People were carrying the signs with them as souvenirs. Suddenly one or two APS vehilces drove up - APS personnel got out and quickly grabbed the signs, chucked them in the back and drove away. No-one resisted this.

Saturday night

As it got dark again, it appeared that there were still detainees somewhere in the camp. There was talk that police might storm the camp.

Sunday - toy delivery

At a spokescouncil meeting, a woman from the Greens suggested that we deliver more toys to the roadblock (which had been repaired in the meantime). I was suffering from exhaustion and sunstroke, so I didn't join in this action or the next one.

Sunday - walk round the DC

Most of the people in the camp set off to walk right round the detention centre. They were gone for several hours. The people who got back were severely exhausted and dehydrated, so those of us left behind were busy giving them food and water. What I heard about this action was:

The party didn't manage to walk all the way round the centre. At some point they entered the outside perimeter, avoiding a narrow alley where it was rumoured there was a water-cannon, and approached the "real fence". The detainees were not confined within buildings, but were visible through the fence. There was a much stronger police presence. Detainees were standing on roofs, shouting and screaming at the protestors.

This was very emotional, very much like Friday. Many protestors were arrested during this action - I heard that a large group of arrests was of women who didn't leave the fence with the main party but stayed behind leaning on the fence and crying.

Sunday night - sleeping by torchlight

We let off fireworks so that the detainees could see we were still here. The police were convinced that there were still detainees in the camp. It was hard to sleep (I was sleeping outdoors), as police were wandering through the camp in small groups, shining torches everywhere.

Monday - surrealism

Most of the protestors were packing up to leave on Monday morning. The police were making a final run through the camp (again, in small groups) to try to find detainees. There were some great episodes here. One group of police was being shadowed by a large group of mainstream and indy media, and by an even larger group of protestors. The protestors who looked vaguely Middle Eastern were having a great time - jumping up suddenly from tents, shouting things in pig-Arabic and running away. One of them put his hands on his head and shouted in artificially broken English "I am escaped - arrest me" - he then followed the police around, hands still on his head, demanding they arrest him, When they ignored him he went up to a police car, spread his hands on the bonnet, then tried to get in it.

Someone hooked up a radio to a PA and played and interview that was going on, involving Ruddock, a spokeman from the South Australian Police, and Andrea Maksimovic from No-one Is Illegal. A cheer went up as the SA Police spokesman demanded that Ruddock stop trying to blame him for the mess. Another went up as the interviewer asked Ruddock "So who won here?" - which was answered "...well, it's not really about winning or losing...".

We drove off, and encountered a police roadblock on the way to Port Augusta. This was weird. The police took a quick glance inside our vehicle and waved us through. We could have had at least two detainees hidden under our luggage.

I HAVE to go to bed now - I don't know where I got the energy to write this. I'll complete some rebuttals of some of the distortions you'll be getting through the media:

1) The protesters were armed
(TV news report)

This report was based on a police photo of items recovered or confiscated from protesters. Someone is hoping that viewers will hear the headline and not bother to look closely at this photo while considering that the protest was based at a makeshift camp set up in the middle of the desert, 170km from anywhere even the size of Port Augusta, and involved people who'd travelled from as far away as Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Perth.

My point is that while all the items shown (Swiss Army knives, spanners, knives, sticks, long poles) _could_ be used as weapons, every single one of them has a different, primary use - especially to people setting up to live in the desert for three days.

We were all carrying a lot of things every time we marched: drums, whistles, flutes, a trumpet, banners, flowers, gifts. We made a lot of noise. It would be possible to look at us and consider that these things _could_ be used as weapons. The point is, not one of these things is primarily a weapon, and as far as I know, not one of these things was ever used as a weapon against police, ACM or APS personnel.

2) The protest was "violent" and there were injuries to police / APS / ACM personnel
(radio interview with Mike Rann /

I wasn't present at every action. There may have been injuiries to police. (there was an apparent assault on a policeman shown on TV news). That there were any injuries was denied by Andrea during the radio interview - she made the point that the police were videoing everything that happened - so let's see if any evidence turns up (you at the back there - children in the sea won't work this time...)
As for the characterisation of the protest as "violent" - I think that, as applied to the protest as a whole, this is either contentious or meaningless. Some people I spoke to who were present at the protest were uncomfortable with the level of confrontation and tension they saw on Friday. My own reaction to what I saw and was involved in (i.e. not the actions inside the DC) was amazement, at the high level of tension and the complete absence of violence, in a situation that could have turned very violent if either side had wanted it.

There has been footage shown of what appears to be an assault on a policeman by protestors. Does this make the protest as a whole "violent"? Wouldn't a better description of this be as a violent incident in an otherwise peaceful protest? (Personally, I don't count knocking down fences that don't even have foundations "violence").
I wasn't there, but consider this: what would your potential for violence be if you saw men, women and children tearing themselves through razor wire, while the protectors of the public peace are more interested in fending off a protest from outside than in assisting these people? The first blood spilt was that of the detainees. Do ACM have penalty clauses in their contract for the Federal government? Don't they have a duty of care towards their detainees?

3) Police had missiles and containers of urine thrown at them

Everyone I spoke to denied this vehemently. I think this claim was made during the radio interview that was broadcast through the camp on Monday morning. Everybody laughed their head off when this was said.

4) The breakout of detainees was executed as a planned and premeditated action.

As I said earlier, this is a ridiculous claim when applied to the protest as a whole. Of course it's possible that some people did have some plans - I don't know! Together with the other distortions in the media, the claim that "some people at the protest may have planned to break out detainees", which is possible but unconfirmed turns nicely into "the organisation of the protest as a whole was directed to breaking out detainees", which is patently false.

5) Escaped detainees were placed at "considerable risk" by being encouraged to flee great distances across the desert

>From what I could find out by talking to people at the protest: it was the detainees who were adamant that they preferred any risk to giving themselves up and going back into the camp. Several people I spoke to said that they knew of other people who'd made great efforts to explain the choices available to the detainees and their consequences, and had even tried to persuade them not to attempt to flee. If this seems unbelievable, or seems to be yet more proof that, as the Government would like us to believe, the detainees are alien, deranged creatures, then please read these quotes I heard along the grapevine:

"I know the Taliban - the Taliban, they'd shoot me. Once. I'd rather be shot than go back in there"
"Australian people. Help us. Please. Help us"

Earlier today, we stopped at a rest area on the way to Port Augusta. There was an information sign about the attractions of the area. Including the railway to Alice, which, I'd forgotten, was built by ... Afghan migrant workers. Who knows how to deal with this kind of country better than an Afghan? How many times before have these people been on the run, how many borders have they crossed already? Can we look beyond Howard's systematic misrepresentation of these people as insolent mendicants knocking pathetically and unjustifiably on the Australian door, and realise what they may really be like? Consider that someone who even gets as far as the Woomera Detention Centre from Afghanistan is probably an unusual sort of person - unusually resourceful, unusually determined, unusually strong? What the hell is a few hundred kilometres of desert to these people, who have come so far already? Are these the sort of people we want in Australia?


all the best


we do not lack communication, on the contrary we have too much of it. we lack creation. we lack resistance to the present.