Australian police in two cities now have decided to follow in the footsteps of their counterparts in the US and Europe and forcibly broken up peaceful Occupy protests. But rather than deter this broad non-partisan movement of the 99%, it is helping it grow and re-occupy.
Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Spanish Indignants and Occupy Wall Street the movement is drawing in many who don't normally protest. Apart from challenging the vast inequalities of wealth and power, Occupy is now also being driven by outrage at the military-style attacks by police and other repressive units of the state.
Occupations of public space – by a movement that is very broad and non-partisan – have become an important means for ordinary people to challenge the power of the elites and to share ideas about alternatives to the current rotten system which is geared around the interests of the 1%.
Occupy's success is confounding the elites, who are divided over how to react.
When asked his opinion, the federal Treasurer Wayne Swan was careful not to diss the Occupy movement. He said he understood why people were concerned about wealth inequalities, hastily adding he only supported "peaceful protests".
But Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle described the Occupy protesters in that City Square as "self-righteous, narcissistic, self-indulgent rabble".
Doyle has been working hand in glove with Murdoch's Herald Sun – which even published the names and photographs of "key" protestors – to get the camp removed. He is now under growing pressure to investigate the extraordinary police attack on Occupy Melbourne on October 21. Many people were injured and 95 were arrested (only to be later released without charge).
Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore tweeted her support for the "principles" of the Occupy movement on October 18, but stopped short of saying she supported Occupy Sydney. She refused to allow the protestors in Martin Place to use tents and, when pressed, passed the buck saying that NSW Police had discretion to stop people erecting tents.
And yet Moore protested she hadn't been consulted about the NSW Police's pre-dawn raid on October 23. A statement which said, in part, "the City respects the right of people to protest" clearly angered the NSW Police, which responded that they didn't need Clover Moore's permission to carry out "law enforcement" duties.
In Sydney, armed police – including a bomb disposal unit – attacked sleeping protestors, bloodying noses and dragged people from Martin Place. No warning was given. When a drowsy protestor asked to see a copy of the move-on notice, a police inspector simply pointed to a council sign nearby forbidding "camping".
Operation Goulding involved some 200 police against less than 100 people who were sleeping – without tents – in Martin Place. Forty people were arrested – all but nine were later released without charge.
The YouTube videos clearly show the police used excessive force.
Pip Hinman is part of Occupy Sydney.
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