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   Vol. 70/No. 3           January 23, 2006  
Using new emergency powers,
Australian cops harass Aborigines
SYDNEY, Australia—“This rally wants to show that people are fed up with this racist violence,” said Osmond Chiu, the Anti-Racism Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS called a “United Against Racism” rally here December 18, where thousands protested the racist attacks a week earlier against youth of Arab descent at Cronulla beach in southern Sydney.

The weekend of December 17-18 police used emergency powers to lock down beaches in the Sydney region. Some 800 cops from around New South Wales (NSW) were brought in for a total of 2,000 police officers deployed. City beaches were largely empty except for locals. Police Commissioner Ken Moroney denied that the roadblocks had achieved what rioters in Cronulla had sought—stopping people from working-class suburbs visiting the beach.

New laws giving police increased emergency powers were passed December 15 by the state parliament. On January 1 cops used these powers to lock down an Aboriginal housing estate in Dubbo in central west NSW. Early that morning, when two cops stopped a car to arrest the driver, a group of up to 100 Aboriginal youths surrounded them. Both the cop car and the other vehicle were torched. About 60 cops enforced a roadblock around the estate that night. “Last night we sent a clear message to the local community” about what “will not be tolerated in the area,” said a Dubbo Detective Inspector. Ten people were arrested including six who were charged with riot and affray and refused bail.

During the week following the attacks at Cronulla, police arrested 162 people in Sydney. Two teenagers accused of being involved in a racist bashing on a train at Cronulla station were granted conditional bail. The same magistrate denied bail to a Lebanese youth who was accused of burning an Australian flag at a Returned Services League Club.

On December 21 bail granted two days earlier to Parham Esmailpour was revoked. Esmailpour had attended the “United against racism” rally. The media said he was arrested December 18 with “anti-government literature” on him and a “bottle of petrol.”

A heavy police presence remains on many beaches. A low-key festival to “celebrate multiculturalism” at Cronulla beach December 25 was attended by a small group of people. About 10 racists gathered near the group. The cops moved in and those taking part in the festival moved to another spot. Rani Barghouthi, who took part in the festival, said he wanted to show that the beach belonged to everyone.

Meanwhile, cops have continued to harass youth in working-class suburbs with large Middle Eastern populations. Rihab Charida, a welfare worker of Palestinian parentage who was at Cronulla December 25, said, “I see on a daily basis police stopping young guys because they look Arab.”

“Racism is a tool of the employing class and is used to divide working Australians,” the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia said in a December 12 statement condemning the racist violence at Cronulla. “The unity of all Australian workers is absolutely vital at a time when working people are under severe attack.”  
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