Just for the record, we weren’t ‘picked up’…we went looking for them, and they took some finding! And contrary to the article, we were arrested and have been charged with trespass under the Commonwealth Crimes Act.
Protesters picked up during war games
21st June 2007, 15:47 WST
Authorities have picked up a group of Christian activists protesting in the midst of a large-scale military exercise involving Australian and US troops in central Queensland, police say.
The protesters had infiltrated the joint military exercise, Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, near Rockhampton, which is the main site for the exercise involving 7,500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, 20,000 US troops, 125 aircraft and 30 ships.
They were protesting against the US-led war in Iraq and the exercise’s impact on the environmentally sensitive area.
On Tuesday, protesters claimed seven activists had entered the training area – an area larger than Belgium – and planned to camp there as long as possible.
Spokeswoman Treena Lenthall said two more groups entered the base on Wednesday night.
A Queensland police spokeswoman confirmed that a group of protesters had been found on the ADF land.
One of the groups released a statement earlier saying they intended to disrupt the war games and speak to the soldiers taking part.
“As followers of the non-violent Jesus, we cannot stand by while our country plans the destruction of our brothers and sisters in other countries and the environment here at Shoalwater Bay,” a statement by the group said.
“We do not take these actions lightly but with an awareness that the gravity of our actions pales in comparison to the crimes of the Australian and US military this week.”
The police spokeswoman said no arrests or charges had been made as yet.
Protesters said another group, and possibly a second, was still in the exercise area and planned to stay there as long as possible.
An ADF spokeswoman has confirmed there will be live firing later in the exercise, which began on Tuesday and ends on July 2.
Peace activists have a responsibility not to expose themselves to risk while protesting, the federal government says.
Human Services Minister Chris Ellison, speaking for Defence Minister Brendan Nelson in the Senate, said the Department of Defence respected people’s right to exercise their freedom of speech.
But those who protested unlawfully could not expect the same protection as those who did so lawfully, he said.
“There’s no concern about lawful protest, but if people go beyond the law in what is a lawful right to freedom of speech and expose themselves to risk that makes it all the more difficult for authorities in dealing with that issue,” he said.
“The safety of people in that circumstance is regarded carefully by defence, but you have to remember than in any of these protests one expects that the protesters act responsibly.
“They do have a responsibility on themselves as to the way they demonstrate.”
Senator Ellison had been asked by Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett what steps the Department of Defence was taking to ensure the safety of a group of anti-war protesters who infiltrated the joint US-Australian exercise Talisman Sabre in Queensland’s Shoalwater Bay.
In a media statement Senator Bartlett condemned the government. He said the coalition’s foreign policy now extended to “ignoring the direct threats” to Australian citizens.
“The government can disagree with these activists’ motivations or methods, but they cannot pretend they don’t exist,” Senator Bartlett said.
And he said the Talisman Sabre exercise was nothing to do with preparing Australia’s defence forces for peacekeeping missions.
“They are about subsuming the Australian Defence Forces even further into the US military machine,” Senator Bartlett said.