A couple of articles in the Age today reveal once again what many of us already knew: that police have been routinely posing as activists to covertly infiltrate campaigns to gather intelligence. Even the Palm Sunday peace march for crying out loud. Maybe that means the government finally gets the seditious nature of Palm Sunday?

Police spying on activists revealed

* Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie

VICTORIA Police’s secret intelligence unit has infiltrated Melbourne’s activist and community groups for two years to gather information on protests against the Iraq War, Japanese whaling and a weapons exhibition.

Reigniting civil liberties concerns about police spying, an officer from the police Security Intelligence Group has infiltrated groups such as Animal Liberation Victoria, Stop the War Coalition, Unity for Peace and Socialist Alternative.

The officer, who posed as a vegan, left-wing activist, has also had close contact with representatives of church and student groups involved in anti-war demonstrations. So successful was his operation that the organising committee for this year’s Palm Sunday peace march in Melbourne appointed him its minute-taker at meetings.

And this:

The spying game

* RIchard Baker and Nick McKenzie

IT WAS a simple mistake. The quiet, polite young activist who had been working every Tuesday as a volunteer in Animal Liberation Victoria’s Melbourne office did not shut down his computer properly before leaving.

Andrew* had left his personal email account open. For those in the group who had nagging doubts about the bona fides of the eager young man who had turned up out of nowhere in February 2007, it was an opportunity too good to resist.

But the scan of Andrew’s email account raised more questions than answers. He had very few email contacts; no friends, family or work colleagues. It appeared the only email addresses he had belonged to the people sneaking a look at his email account – the animal rights folk – plus maybe a few others in Melbourne’s activist community.

Who was this guy who wanted the crappy job of taking notes at meetings? Why was he always so keen to know when the next animal rescue or protest was on? How come this vegan appeared to have no knowledge of Melbourne’s vegetarian restaurants?

The empire is alive and well.

People sometimes think I’m paranoid, but I always assume there’s at least one member of the police force at any meeting or phone hookup or email network…rarely is there any need for secrecy anyway. But this shows the immoral lengths government is willing to go to to minimise dissent under the pretense of ‘public safety’. If you’re a concerned police officer, go to the meetings in uniform and explain why you’re there. Who knows, we might even get along.

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scott parkin 2

ok, so now they’ve revealed why they’re deporting him: apparently, he encouraged ‘spirited’ protest and was intending to teach ‘techniques for preventing police from taking protesters away for arrest’. In the context of someone committed to non-violence, we can safely assume those techniques were non-violent, so I still fail to get what he has done that is illegal, or even close to a ‘threat to national security’. how dare he encourage spirited protest? only boring, unenthusiastic protest is allowed here, otherwise you might actually have some kind of effect. seriously, surely protest, even resistance, is still a legal right in this country? just because you disagree with the government and make efforts to express that disagreement, seems now to mean you forfeit all rights to being here. that’s not just wrong, it’s downright disturbing. unless there’s something they’re not telling us about this story – and there seems to be no reason not to defend this decision – there’s every reason to be not just alert, but very, very alarmed.

an eventful week

so this week was rather eventful for me, all stemming from a 2 minute incident at 12:45pm on Wednesday.

Basically (to make a long story short) I witnessed an altercation between a young man (18ish?) and an older man (mid 70’s?) outside the front of my house. I didn’t see what started it (although I later discovered the young man had asked the older man for money), but I did hear them swearing and yelling at each other before they began fighting, and watched from my window as the younger man picked up our wheelie bin and brought it crashing down on the old man’s head before being chased away by the older man.

I won’t go into the ensuing details of police reports and investigations. Suffice to say I was the only witness to the event, so I was quite popular with the boys in blue for a couple of days. : D What strikes me most as I replay the whole situation is how this kind of thing happens. What could possibly have transpired for an exchange between two complete strangers to escalate to the point it did?

Let me start with the older man. It was his angry voice I heard first, and believe me, he was giving at least as good as he got. The only reason I can think of for him to react so angrily and aggressively was fear. He wasn’t exactly a frail old man, but I imagine he wasn’t in the prime of his life. To have a young guy come and ask you for money (I don’t know how that happened, whether he demanded it forcefully, or just requested it) is confronting, particularly if you feel threatened. The second you feel threatened or fearful, you feel defensive, and react defensively. I think the likelihood is that his defensive reaction was offense.

Then there’s the younger man. Obviously I don’t know his situation, but I do know that this occurred just 20 metres from a piece of graffiti that reads (somewhat like a disclaimer), “If youth allowance wasn’t 52% of the poverty line, I wouldn’t have to steal.” Teasing out the issues involved in that sentence alone could take days (eg/ why write that unless you are genuinely apologetic?). But clearly this kid is not alone in his desperation for that which most of us take for granted – a means to fulfill our most basic needs. No-one begs for money as an entrepreneurial venture. Maybe I’m assuming too much about a situation I barely know anything about, but it makes me feel at least as much sympathy for this kid as for the old man, both caught up in a society of fear. That fear alienates that kid, and it only perpetuates a system of inequality and alienation.

And then there’s me: why didn’t I go and put myself in the situation? Why did I watch it escalate to its conclusion from the safety of my darkened window? Well the answer to that is fear too. Not for my own safety – goodness knows my instinctive reaction to things like this is to act without thinking and jump in aggressively (demonstrated not once, not twice, but thrice) – but for my family. To intervene, I thought, would be to invite the wrath of the young man upon my house; and that meant my family. I still don’t know what to make of that, whether I did the right thing or not. But I acted out of fear, and that alone is, at the very least, sad.

I don’t know what to do about it, I just keep looking at this whole incident and thinking how it’s just a tiny, tiny microcosm of the sadness that is allowed to go on in our society, perpetuated by “a current affair” and our pm and others. I don’t even know how to end this post. I’ll pray for them.