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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
'Common sense decision' to ban protest march route or beat up of anti Bush critics?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: legal


Funny to be at the Supreme Court and hear Judge Michael Adams give much of his judgement - at least from 2.30 pm - and then hear the 5pm news bulletin on the ABC (and 5.30 bulletin with its own error too).

The last sentence at the 5 O'clock bulletin stated words to the effect of 'in evidence to the court police said if the protest went ahead it would result in unprecedented violence'.

Is this exageration, or bias even, to the police view of things?

More seriously is this wrong and dishonest reporting by the ABC police reporter? Is she participating in a softening up of the Stop Bush Coalition of 30 peaceful protest groups, and as such acting as participant in the news making?

Picture: Here are two observant onlookers at the Supreme Court today, actually both Australian Federal Police intelligence officers.


Earlier today we posted on how the same ABC police reporter to our ears mis reported the actual or real meaning of police evidence which the Supreme Court Judge summarised as amounting to "a possibility of violence at the protest march", which was a very far cry from the ABC radio report of the police evidence being that a "protest march would probably involve violence". Not could, would.

That was straight out false reporting and bad news work to our ears.

In other legal contexts this kind of mis characterisation is the difference between say evidence amounting to an acquittal on the presumption of innocence, and a life sentence for murder.

So in the next phase of the news cycle after the scheduled 2pm court decision the ABC police reporter has again it seems got it badly wrong  by saying evidence in the court from the police was categorical of 'a protest march would lead to unprecedented violence". Again not could but would.

Given we missed the first 30 minutes of the Judge's soliliquy this writer checked with a Sydney Morning Herald journalist close to their filing deadline on whether they heard this kind of "police evidence the protest march would cause unprecedented violence". He said certainly the judge never conceded there was evidence of that. I was at the hearing of all the police evidence for 4 hours this morning 7-11.30 am, and as I said the judge found police evidence of 'a possibility not a probability of violence'.

It's true we didn't get to read the police documents submitted but the judge's findings are highly suggestive no such evidence was submitted by the police that the protest march categorically "would cause unprecedented violence". Certainly they did refer to G20 violence and other world leaders meetings where there was lots of civil strife in the past. The judge wasn't categorical at all saying it was "a possibility".

The judge also said this morning that of all the Stop Bush Coalition literature, none of it attacks APEC as such, or denies the right of the attendees at APEC to be kept safe. Their protest is against Bush and the war in Iraq clearly.

Yet in the 5.30 bulletin on 702 radio, the SBC is described as one "anti APEC group". Misleading again. Yet this might be understandable given the police barrister revealed that some 81 applications for permits to protest had been made by diverse interests during the APEC period.

 Picture: Keith McHenry, global founder of Food not Bombs Movement attends the hearing.

We rang the ABC executive producer for news on 702 radio and asked him what the hell is going on? Why is the evidence in the court being misdescribed, and giving the last word to some kind of bizarre police perspective, maybe outside the court and untested, compared to the balanced summary of what the Judge actually found was really in the police evidence to him - namely that 'the vast majority of protesters wanted and defended peaceful protest', the Stop Bush Coalition had no form for violence tactics in the evidence, yet it would be "PolyAnnerish" to deny there was no risk of violence by some people not associated with the SBC.

The Judge also said it made a big difference that the police commissioner had proposed a protest march route 'only a few blocks away' to allow free speech, and freedom of assembly.

Picture: Lone busker at Circular Quay behind the so called lockdown today, with this writer on pushy.

It seems quite apparent that the ABC police reporter, or the police outside the court evidentiary process, or both are spinning in an incredibly exagerated and favourable way to the law and order merchants in the NSW Police to damage the SBC position. That might be a good way to get more stories on the career drip from her police sources.

But it's not good or fair or ethical reporting, neither by the journalist or the ABC.

Today Crikey.com.au ran this editorial which is rips into the fawning to Law and Order Authoritarianism:

" Dear Sole Subscriber,

Another sole subscriber, Crikey reader Ben Pearson, has been musing on APEC.

The ongoing campaign by police and pollies warning against ‘violent’ protests at APEC -- dutifully reported by the fourth estate -– masks the fact that all three of these actors actually benefit from a bit of public argy bargy and thus exaggerate both the threat and occasional occurrence of it.

Premier Iemma rails against ‘vandals’ and ‘violence’ to show that he is tough on law n order. Prime Minister John Howard, on the other hand, is hoping that a couple of university proto-anarchists will distract attention from the fact that APEC is nothing more than the mother of all inconveniences for Sydneyites. As for the media, they are hoping for the kind of dramatic stories and photos that sell papers. As the industry says – "if it bleeds, it leads”.

For the cops, APEC is a vision of the world as it should be. Expanded powers, new equipment, media support, and maybe a chance to try out new toys like the water cannon.

The warnings and hype about ‘violent’ protests mask another agenda in which politicians and certain elements in the media stigmatise the very notion of protest, and by creating and reinforcing an association between mass protests and violence, they seek to de-legitimise the former. Public protest is the right of all Australians. Pollies may not like it, and it may not sell many papers, but it’s part of what democracy is all about.

And we think Ben has a point."

Where indeed is the specific 'police evidence to the court that a protest march would cause unprecedented violence'? It wasn't in the submissions by the barrister for the Police Commissioner between 10.30am - 11.30 am this morning to this writer's certain knowledge while present in court. If there was such evidence the barrister would have been parading it and pressing it home.

If it were categorically an inevitable result of a march to a police barrier at King/George of unprecedented violence, then surely a march along Park St to Hyde Park (a route in fact supported by the Police Commissioner in the court today) would result in at least a comparable risk of violence, in which case the police would never support that either? It's totally illogical. The police actually admitted in the witness box they had no evidence of violent tactics of ANY of the 30 or more affiliated Stop Bush Coalition groups including The Greens party, teachers and other civil society groups. 


If the ABC or the reporter can't produce that evidence by the police to the court the protest march "would cause unprecedented violence" the journalist should resign and the ABC should make a retraction and correction of legal misreporting.

In fact we are advised that when GW Bush was here last in October 2004 an anti Bush rally achieved 5,000 attendance which was in the manageable range from what we heard in court today from Judge Michael Adams. But he obviously thought the huge publicity being given to the APEC event meant it would be bigger this time.

He was greatly influenced by the more confined space of George St compared to Park St.

On balance this writer favours the police option of travelling down Park St and making that decision as soon as possible to promote it far and wide in order to maximise the turn out to embarrass both George Bush and John Howard. Not because we think the Stop Bush Coalition has anything to be guilty or fearful of as regards their own supporters and the mainstream public supporters. More for practical political reasons to keep it smooth and effective, and to sideline the trouble makers who could be attracted to such a bold or sexy march now that the police have committed to a road barrier. It would be a total tragedy to conflict with the police when GW Bush and Howard are the real problem to focus on.

Lastly, though the police won their court action today, the court conspicuously did not award costs against Bainbridge and Stop Bush Coalition, nor did the police lawyers make the mistake of even asking for costs. Because they knew they were in a pre meditated mugging of democracy and the court and everyone else seemed to know it.

By the way the court was packed with onlookers too but you can't take pictures up there.

Posted by editor at 8:53 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007 12:48 PM NZT

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