The Guardian 21 September, 2005

Scott Parkin "removed"

Is peaceful protest a security threat? The Howard government seems to think so after it removed American teacher and peace activist, Scott Parkin, from Australia last week. His crime: advocating peace, which the government views as a threat to national security.

Australian peace trainer Iain Murray, a friend of Scott’s said: "There’s about as much evidence of Scott representing a threat as there’s been evidence found of weapons of mass destruction."

Scott was held in solitary confinement at the Melbourne Custody Centre from Saturday until last Thursday.

Greenpeace Political Liaison Officer, Helen Oakey finally managed to speak with him directly the day before he was deported, and passed on news of all the media coverage around his case and well wishes from family and friends.

Scott told Ms Oakey: "I find this entire experience incomprehensible and am still baffled as to why my visa has been cancelled. I hope that when Australians visit the US that they are allowed to voice their criticism of government and corporate policy without fear of reprisal, and that they are freely allowed to participate in peaceful protest."

Greenpeace lawyers, Julian Burnside QC, and Scott’s lawyers mounted an administrative law to challenge the deportation. This resulted in the government retracting its request for the rights waiver and scaled back its threat of "deportation" to the less serious "removal".

Ms Oakey said, "This is a sad day for our democracy and all Australians should be concerned. Scott’s detention and removal will damage our reputation internationally."

As Scott arrived at Melbourne airport around 30 people demonstrated their support for Scott and his commitment to peaceful protest. One supporter was dressed up as John Howard, holding up a sign that said, "Scott, send my love to George (W Bush)", others had placards saying: "Thanks for your non-violence Scott", "Free Speech" and "Peace is the word".

After his five-day detention in Australia and his trip back to LA he was handed a bill for almost $11,700.

This included a $4,235 airfare back to LA and $6,675 for the return airfares of the two officials, and their accommodation in LA. The five day stay at the Melbourne Custody Centre will cost another $777.

He has also been banned from entering Australia for three years.

Scott gratefully acknowledged the surge of public support he has received on the ground and through the Internet. "To my family and friends, everyone who is supporting me, both in Australia and in the US, I’d like to thank you for the overwhelming support that I have received."

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