So Geoff Clark told Minister for Reconciliation Phillip Ruddock some weeks ago that he could well be in Geneva when State and Federal Aboriginal affairs ministers meet next weekend to find solutions to the endemic violence by Aboriginal men against Aboriginal women and children.
You’ll recall that Ruddock put the crisis on top of the agenda in response to devastating revelations by female Aboriginal leaders that women had kept quiet about the violence for too long. He said then that ATSIC chairman Clark – who strongly denies allegations by four women that he raped them – would come with him.
Clark’s decision is the latest proof that ATSIC has learnt nothing and he must go.
Can you imagine Ruddock getting away with preferring an overseas junket to being at this crucial meeting? Double standards, Geoff.
It gets worse. Clark told the Herald today in an interview from Geneva, where he’s lobbying United Nations human rights groups, that he wants the Australian government to invite a newly appointed UN special rapporteur on indigenous rights, Rodolpho Stavenhagen, to investigate deaths in custody and native title.
Clark said Mr Stavenhagen would understand problems such as family dysfunction and violence were symptoms of the lack of economic development and recognition of the rights of indigenous people.
“Hopefully then he would be able to comment on that to the UN to put pressure on for change if that’s not occurring in a country,” Clark said.
Geoff, where do you get off?
There is pressure for change in this country NOW. The meeting is the first step towards translating that pressure into IMMEDIATE action.
Aboriginal people do have the right to economic empowerment and to native title, but Aboriginal women and children also have the RIGHT not to be routinely attacked and abused by Aboriginal men.
Aboriginal children are the future of your people, Geoff. We don’t need a UN rapporteur to tell us there is a crisis. We already KNOW that.
Your priorities are disgusting.
If you had any credibility left, it might be worthwhile asking why you misled the Australian people on June 19, when you announced that you would not sue The Age for publishing the rape allegations against you, and that instead “I will lodge an immediate complaint with the Press Council”.
No complaint has yet been lodged.
I interviewed Phillip Ruddock on Clark’s likely no-show today. Here is my report.
ATSIC reversed its decision to expand its London office in the wake of revelations that it took little interest in endemic violence by Aboriginal men against Aboriginal women and children.
It decided in May to spend $3.6 million to set up an office in London to help lobby for a treaty, and to cut regional health and legal budgets to pay for it, sparking outrage from some indigenous leaders. After the violence scandal broke last month, it was also revealed that ATSIC had ended funding for a domestic violence program in North Queensland.
But Reconciliation minister Phillip Ruddock told the Herald online that the dumping of the London spending was evidence that ATSIC was responding to revelations by Aboriginal women leaders last month that women had stayed silent for too long on the crisis.
“Indigenous organisations are now having to weigh up in their priorities the amount of money they spend on this, rather than on other things,” he said.
But he refused to directly criticise the chairman of ATSIC Geoff Clark, for advising him that he might not attend a meeting of State and Federal Aboriginal affairs ministers next weekend to find solutions to the crisis.
Mr Ruddock announced last month that he and Mr Clark – who denies allegations of serial rape – would attend the meeting.
Mr Clark is in Geneva to lobby United Nations human rights groups, and has said he might not come back in time for the meeting.
“He still has to formally advise us as to whether or not he will attend,” Mr Ruddock said. “I would like him to be there, and he still might be.”
“All of the participants in meetings of this sort have to make judgements on their priorities.”
Mr Ruddock said his top priority a the meeting was to force the States to collect the necessary information on the extent of the crisis.
“Some States have, over a long period of time, not wanted to get the evidence or to put it clearly on the table,” he said.
He accused the states of failing in their responsibilities to protect Aboriginal women and children from violence. “Aboriginal people must have the same capacity to access police and family and community services as everyone else, and this is a matter the States can no longer avoid,” he said.
Today, the view from the trenches in Genoa, courtesy of my brother Hamish Alcorn.
COMMUNIQUE FROM NYC-YA BASTA! and THE NYC-DIRECT ACTION NETWORK IN GENOA, JULY 22, 2001
CONCERNING THE ATTACK ON THE INDEPENDENT MEDIA CENTER AND FASCIST/POLICE COORDINATION DURING THE G8 SUMMIT
The Independent Media Center in Genoa City and a nearby schoolhouse “safe area” was attacked at midnight last night by police, aided, it appears, by mysterious elements disguised as anarchists who committed savage and bloody attacks on activists and independent journalists.
This is the culmination of a systematic campaign of state violence against enormous and overwhelmingly peaceful protests against the G8 summit here.
We were in the Carlini stadium which was where Ya Basta! was camped out when the attack occurred – most of the major tutti bianci and other contingents were already gone, there were only about three or four hundred people left there at 1 AM when we got news of the IMC attack.
We were told to get our things and walk up to a different camp about twenty minutes walk away while Ya Basta! assembled journalists and parliamentarians whose presence would protect us, as our camp was definitely next.
Apparently the cops did show up an hour after we took off, and completely trashed the place; after searching everything, they opened the camp to a bunch of junkies who then went through all the remaining bags and tents and made off with or destroyed everything of value.
The cops have been working with a lot of low-life elements: the big story today is of a group of about fifty “Black Bloc” types who none of the other anarchists knew who always showed up and started acting extremely violently right before the cops arrived to gas and attack peaceful protestors. In some cases this reportedly caused actual fistfights with other Black Blockers who were trying to stop them from attacking small shops or other illegitimate targets.
The main question people are asking is whether they were cops or fascists working with the cops – the question may be moot if reports are to be believed that the top story of the local carabinieri HQ here is covered with swastikas and fascist symbols.
The story with the IMC: a couple minutes before midnight according to an eyewitness account from someone from RTS New York, a band of 50 “anarchists” in suspiciously uniform black clothes, bandanas and halmets appeared on a corner near the IMC, coming from the direction of a police position, started overturning dumpsters, and vanished again.
At exactly midnight a major police convoy appeared and bashed down the gate of the IMC with a van; people on the street who tried to form a line were beaten bloody with truncheons; at the IMC itself they had to produce a warrant and behave in a fairly civilized fashion, simply ripping tapes out of cameras, appropriating files and smashing computers – largely because the IMC was given the space by the city government and at least one minister of parliament was present – but across the street, in a “safe space” in which many activists were sleeping or eating in a schoolhouse, they simply came in swinging and attacked everyone they could get their hands on.
Most of the most savage beatings were again not done by uniformed police but by characters dressed in jeans and bandanas and helmets with ‘police’ written on their T-shirts, which had presumably been under the black sweatshirts all along. There was blood and broken glass everywhere inside; dozens were arrested, many carried off to the station in stretchers with broken limbs; today every third person you see in the IMC is wounded in some way – black eyes, arms in casts, gashes and cuts all over. Most are afraid to go to the hospital because the police have been removing people with unexplained wounds from hospital beds and throwing them in jail.
There were unconfirmed reports in the corporate media that three people were killed in the assault; most people today think this was mistaken (corporate media is hobbled in covering stories like this because most of them have a policy not to use independent media as a source. Apparently the BBC refused to run live footage of the police assault the IMC offered to supply them while it was happening because they claimed the event was “unconfirmed”!)
A French journalist is looking into the matter of the “warrant” and believes that it was a fraud – no such warrant was actually issued. There are rumors that Amnesty International is going to take up the matter at the World Court at the Hague and specifically accuse the Italian government of fascism.
Considering the fact that the Berlusconi regime is already working in coalition with overtly fascist parties (ie, led by Mussolini’s grand-daughter) the press is already beginning to talk of a fascist government. Many of the techniques employed here: the use of fake bomb threats, rightists posing as leftist terrorists to justify brutal oppression, were those employed in the ’70s to repress Autonomia.
However, what is happening here is obviously not just an Italian phenomena: techniques of repression are clearly being developed systematically, with new elements being added with every major action.
For instance, the Italian police here used what were for them entirely new techniques here, such as the wall around the “red zone” and the systematic use of extremely powerful tear-gas, which were spearheaded in Quebec City in April; the use of agents provocateurs disguised as anarchists right before police attacks on peaceful protestors was used at least since Barcelona in June, where it was fully documented on film and acknowledged even by the corporate media; the use of live ammunition of course goes back to Gothenburg.
It is important to note that after Gothenburg, Ya Basta! appealed to the government, saying that they were going to promise that no one associated with them engaged in any aggressive acts against either persons or property, and they were asking the police in return to agree not to bring live ammunition but rubber bullets and other relatively non-lethal arms.
The police refused, and even publicly announced a week before the summit that they were ordering body bags for dead protestors. The shootings and killings were not accidental: this was an intentional policy which goes back at least to the top of the Italian government but most likely to agencies like the US secret service which were ultimately coordinating the defense of the summit.
It is important to stress that the initiative for personal violence in just about every case we have looked into came from the police and not the protestors. On the 19th, there was a completely peaceful march of 50-60,000 people calling for international freedom of movement; since the police did not attack, there was no violence or property destruction of any kind.
The next day there were to be four or five separate columns descending on the walled “red zone” ranging from the Tuti Bianci in whimsical foam rubber armor and giant plexiglass shields, reformist groups like ATTAC who had no intention of doing direct action of any kind, radical syndicalists, a theatrical “pink bloc” with wigs and feather dusters, and a pagan bloc teamed with Gandhian pacifists who performed a spiral dance ceremony.
Every single one was attacked by the police, and always following the same pattern: first massive gassing similar to Quebec City, then baton charges meant to break bones and heads. The only group which was not attacked was the small “splinter group” within the Black Bloc which somehow mysteriously appeared in the middle of whatever group the police were about to attack next, destroying property randomly, and in some cases physically attacking people (including other anarchists) who tried to stop them, then somehow vanishing right before the cops began gassing.
This group was never itself assaulted by the police, it seems, but every other one was at one point or another.
If the police were intending to provoke mayhem, they succeeded: enraged protestors and many local citizens banded together to smash store windows and set fire to banks; in some places they even turned police violence back on the police, throwing rocks and bottles: there were several street battles, and in one of them, nearby where the Ya Basta! march was blocked by a police assault, local people, (real) anarchists and others combined forces to drive the police back and at certain points the police were definitely getting the worst of it; this is where a police officer shot one protester through the eye and drove his van over him, killing him.
Whatever the circumstances of the actual shooting (and it was not the only occasion in which police used live ammunition, others were, apparently, wounded by live bullets), the decision to incite violence and then arm police with live ammunition was made beforehand with full knowledge of the likely results, and in open defiance of desperate pleas from the protestors not to take that course.
It is the Berlusconi regime and the international police networks who have been coordinating the repression of the movement who are responsible for the violence and death in Genoa, not any particular policeman, carabinieri, or even fascist. These men knew exactly what they were doing.
We have to coordinate an immediate response. We always knew that the hammer of the state would come down eventually. The movement has been growing too fast, and has been far too effective, to be allowed to advance further. Now it is happening.
At this point it appears we have no choice: we must appeal, in every way possible, to civil society; to spread the word about what is happening and to hold those responsible to account.
It is already starting to happen in Europe and it is much harder in the United States where the press is so much more systematically biased against us, but this is a time to start playing every card we have – every connection or access to the power structure, time to start making phone calls, to start daily protests and even, if necessary, scrupulously non-violent direct actions against the media itself if it refuses to reveal what is actually happening here.
We have to jam their email and phone banks, not to let them get away with lying about us any more. These things can be done. We can turn it around. We can stop the engine of repression in its tracks if our pressure is massive and overwhelming.
Every time we read a story saying “police raid headquarters of violent protestors” we need to have a hundred letters sent demanding that they print the truth. We need to start calling the journalists responsible and demanding to know why they use the language they did and will not publish key information.
To ask them: if you admit (as they often do in private) that police attacked overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, why is it they never say so?
Be creative. Be disruptive. Absolutely refuse to go away.