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Police attempt to COVID-normalise repression of Protest

Written by: John G. on 19 October 2020


A few hundred students and some friends protested Commonwealth increases to University fees for non-STEM courses and other issues at Sydney University on Saturday 10 October. They were chanting and waving banners at their most assertive.

Many if not most wore masks. Some effort and some lack of success at keeping distance was in evidence.

Dozens of police including 4 mounted and several police vehicles trailed the demonstration without interfering for about half an hour. When the protest halted as they arrived at the Parramatta Road Uni entrance gates, Police attacked protesters. They seized megaphones and posters. Police grabbed a number of protesters and issued heavy on-the-spot fines.

The people fined were arrested. Many were grabbed and forced violently to the ground with police sweeping their legs from under them, dropping them to their knees if not to their stomachs. Police imposed themselves on the protesters violently.

Why the Police attack on protest?

It was not for breaching COVID restrictions. After all, thousands upon thousands of Sydneysiders are gathering every day at shopping centres, on beaches and often in pubs and football arenas in queues getting within 1 ½ metres of others, casually breaching Public Health Orders.

Police daily exercise their discretion in numerous social settings on distancing rules.  However aggressive police action and violent arrests and heavy fines are becoming the COVID normal in response to protests. There is little discretion exercised in relation to protests. At this rate, it will not be long before repeat protesters will be facing gaol.

Police aggression is also the norm in relation to gatherings of young people in working class districts in Sydney and Melbourne. A bit more discretion has generally been exercised in these cases but it also serves to COVID normalise police aggression in circles of young people. 

This is developing resistance. It warrants serious examination and responses.

There is widespread support of measures to secure community safety from the Covid-19 pandemic. Many if not most COVID health restrictions are important measures to make and keep communities safe from illness and death caused by the Covid-19 virus. In the environment of some inexperience with this disease, there are uncertainties and debate about the range of correct responses to suppress the transmission of the virus. That uncertainty does not excuse rejection of COVID safety measures.

Police and their government commanders rely on the widespread support of COVID safety measures to evoke division in the community over struggle against hardships, exploitation and oppression.

Support of COVID health restrictions does not exclude support for public exercise of political rights, nor require people to abandon the nobbled democratic rights people have within capitalist rule. Epidemiologists and the World Health Organisation advocate proportional actions to suppress the virus, not fascist dictates in response to the pandemic.

The Authorities fear people rebelling over hardships

Early in the pandemic, many activists involved in providing support for communities suffering deprivations due to shutdowns and lockdowns, including charities and foodbanks, came across grave paranoia amongst government bureaucrats and police. They expressed fear of civil unrest erupting in response to disruption of incomes and restriction of supplies of household necessities.

Unprecedented moves were made by governments and other authorities to secure household incomes and the supply of necessities to the great majority in the community, even while some minorities were abandoned to their own devices, homelessness, reliance on handouts of food and finance from charities, family and friends.

Tens of billions were committed and spent by government to provide income and ensure supply lines to the majority. Hundreds of millions were provided to bankers to suspend mortgage payments and stave off evictions. Supermarkets were engaged to ration some supplies like meats, sanitisers and toilet paper, among others, to ensure supplies were spread across the community and that large number were not left without basic food and sanitary products. Emergency home delivery arrangements were subsidised by government.

As incomes, housing and supply of household necessities have been somewhat secured, the paranoia of the authorities starts to dissipate.

Governments reducedJobkeeper and Jobseeker payments, reimposed assets tests, removed moratoria on evictions, and restored mortgage payments. It reveals the ruling class’s confidence in starting to load the burden of the COVID economic crisis onto the people.

At the same time, the Federal government in particular, is moving to open the population to greater but “manageable” harm from the pandemic. They turn from supporting and protecting people to head off revolt, to now imposing the burden on people to free up capital and stem the bleeding of finances to people’s welfare.

On two fronts, economic and health, they are acting to load the people with the burden of both crises.

Unleashing hardship, deprivation and even sickness and death on people triggers resistance and revolt. It is a great compliment to Australians that the ruling class is finding it necessary to build violent suppression of resistance into their COVID response. 

People rise against the hardships. They rebel against oppression of their protests.

The ruling class knows it and is preparing. The people are learning how important and necessary their rebellion is.


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