APEC: Police state measures target protesters

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, to be held in Sydney on September 7-9, will see an unprecedented security operation to ‘protect’ US president George Bush and many of the world’s other political leaders.

In what is becoming a common occurrence, ordinary people will be denied some of their most basic democratic rights. New APEC security legislation, drawn up by the NSW parliament, will include the suspension of normal bail provisions, new powers to do random searches and ban “prohibited” people from restricted zones. Anyone under suspicion can be arrested and held without bail.

Whether thousands of foreign guards will be carrying weapons is still unclear. NSW also has special legislation which gives the police commissioner the right to allow foreign security personnel to carry firearms.

NSW Police Minister David Campbell said if protesters tried to breach police lines erected around the city exclusion zone, they would be locked up for the duration of the meeting. Campbell said if police arrested anyone who did not obey orders to disperse or leave an area, they could be held in jail until APEC was over. The specially drawn up exclusion zones or “declared zones” are aimed at keeping protesters out of the city.

One of the “declared zones” will cover almost the entire Sydney CBD. Three inner-city train stations will also be shut for three days. Another “security triangle” will blanket harbour side areas, with its three points being the Opera House, Government House and the Darling Harbour convention centre. Other, yet to be specified, “lock-down” zones will be completely off limits to the public. Known ‘troublemakers’ will be refused entry to the city restricted zone.

Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has used the veil of a possible terrorist strike to bolster his argument that such police powers are required. This is without an ounce of evidence to back this statement up. He has actually conceded that no specific terrorist threat currently exists and that the official terrorist alert level would remain unchanged.

It should be noted that at both a federal and state level all of the legislation that has increased police powers and cracked down on democratic rights has been passed in a bi-partisan way. That is by both the Liberal and Labor and often without any debate.

In reality these measures are not aimed at possible terrorist attacks but at criminalising dissent and stifling opposition to the neo-liberal polices that APEC represents. Bush, Howard and co know that side by side with their policies of cuts, privatisation and workplace deregulation, they need to silence any dissent.

The Socialist Party will not be intimidated by the new police powers and will not be silenced. Along with thousands of other workers and young people we will be out in force at APEC. We will continue to protest against the policies of APEC and the anti-democratic nature of the Howard government.

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