Australian news, and some related international items

Australian media distorts Aboriginals’ peaceful protest – what a load of anti-Aboriginal spin!

Gillard and Abbott were never really threatened by aboriginal protestorsIndependent Australia, 26 Jan 2012   The official account portrays Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as being attacked by violent aboriginal demonstrators today in Canberra. Present at the demonstrations was John Passant — who paints a rather different picture of events. Lunching at the appropriately named Porkbarrel Café for an awards ceremony, Gillard and Abbott became the target of a large crowd of demonstrators from the nearby Tent Embassy 40th year commemoration. Earlier that morning, 2,000 of us had gathered at the Australian National University for a welcome, some talks, rap and dancing before marching up to Parliament House and then on to the Tent Embassy at Old Parliament House….. Soon about 200 of the demonstrators moved from the Tent Embassy commemoration to the café to tell Abbott what they thought of him.

There was a bit of banging on the glass walls. The chants started as “Shame, shame!” and “Racists, racists” and then became a steady “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.” This is a truth the one per cent and their paid mouthpieces, Gillard and Abbott, cannot acknowledge, let alone address.

The cops reacted as they always do when confronted by angry Aboriginal people. The riot squad and the Prime Minister’s protection unit brutalised the crowd to clear a path for Gillard and Abbott, ….

Then the cops tried to wreak their vengeance on the crowd – an Aboriginal crowd and their supporters – for having dared to protest against these two representatives of the mining companies that are stealing Aboriginal land. Together in a line, they walked slowly towards the protestors chanting ‘Move, move, move’ and in one case, shoved a pepper spray bottle into a demonstrators’ face….. The demonstration was a reminder that polite conversation isn’t going to shift entrenched capitalist interests and their representatives in the Parliament. It might give you fake constitutional changes but not land rights, not sovereignty, not a treaty….

Tent Embassy spokesman Pal Coe made a point largely lost in the media coverage today, which is that Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda don’t speak for those involved, much less for Aboriginal Australia as a whole

The Mob Violence That Wasn’t New, By Ben Eltham , 28 Jan, 12, The media has framed it as violent but the tent embassy protest was basically peaceful. It’s this gross distortion – and the heavy-handed response of the AFP – that warrant criticism, writes Ben Eltham

Somehow, with the strange alchemy that the media seems to summon, the dominant angle of reporting about yesterday’s Australia Day kerfuffle involving the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition has been to condemn it as a violent protest.

“Indigenous leaders condemn ‘disgraceful’ protesters” is how the ABC has beendescribing it and much of the Fairfax press has carried similar stories. The television networks have, of course, reveled in the dramatic footage. Channel 9’s news report from last night, which carried the inside-the-restaurant footage of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader conferring on whether to evacuate, repeatedly framed the protest in emotive terms like “violent”, “raging”, “angry mob”, under siege” and so on.

Few media outlets seem to have asked whether there was in fact any violence from protesters. The available video and eyewitness evidence suggests that the violence came mainly from police and security staff. Yes, there was chanting, Yes, there was banging on the windows of local restaurant The Lobby.

But were the protesters really “violent”? 

What exactly would this “violence” have consisted of?

Police have laid no charges. No-one appears to have been hurt through the actions of protesters. The available footage, particularly from Channel 9, which can be seen here on the 3AW site, shows no violence from protesters. What it shows is confusion and panic from police and security, protestors milling about shouting, and rough handling of protesters by police.

In response to a question about yesterday’s violence from a journalist at today’s tent embassy press conference, a spokeswoman for the embassy, Selina Davey-Newry, said:

“There was no violence, we had the AFP and riot squad pushing at us in a line, and invited the politicians to come out and speak. The AFP came out against us with force, and we did not retaliatie with force, we did not instigate any wrong-doing or any violence”.

3AW’s Michael Pachi’s account of the affair, broadcast yesterday, appears to confirm this. “In terms of violence, if you call it violence … it was basically the protesters banging on the Commonwealth car once they were escorted from the car … but from the most part it was really just loud chanting,” he said.

This report by Wil Wallace is the best available eyewitness account of the protest. Wallace spoke to Sam Castro, who was at the tent embassy. Wallace writes that “a contingent of about 100 protesters made their way up the road to The Lobby and surrounded it. Though they were loud and noisy they were non-violent.”….

The Canberra Times’ Jack Waterford argues that the security forces panicked and over-reacted, and the politicians were never in danger. “At no stage did it appear that Gillard made contact with any protester, or that any lunged towards her. The stumble was a function of the extrication, not crowd pressure.”…

Tent Embassy spokesman Pal Coe made a point largely lost in the media coverage today, which is that Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda don’t speak for those involved, much less for Aboriginal Australia as a whole. “You cannot work a peaceful way when governments rely upon certain Aboriginal people to justify a position, a political position, a policy position that they take and they conveniently choose to ignore the rest of Aboriginal people because they have one or two convenient spokespeople,” he told theABC’s George Roberts….

questions must be asked about why Gillard and Abbott both refused to interrupt their Australia Day ceremony to walk outside the restaurant and speak to the protestors.

Finally, and, most seriously, significant questions must be raised about the Australian Federal Police and their cack-handed overreaction to this non-riot.

January 28, 2012 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, ACT, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media

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