The Guardian June 20, 2001


Ombudsman condones police violence at S11

by Minh Nguyen

In a report into police conduct during the S11 anti-capitalist 
demonstrations in Melbourne last year, the Victorian Police Ombudsman 
concluded that the tactics and strategies adopted by police were reasonably 
open to police in those circumstances.

The Ombudsman took a "big picture" approach and generally endorsed police 
conduct during the demonstrations, but identified "a number of acts of 
undisciplined use of force by individual police members".

Both the Bracks Government and police were overjoyed by the report. The 
Victorian Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said the Ombudsman's findings had 
"vindicated the planning, the strategy and the tactics of the police".

In effect the report licenses police to bash, baton, and charge horses into 
protestors without fear of serious scrutiny on blockades and pickets, 
particularly those against the interests of global capitalism.

In case "some people [are] surprised by [his] conclusion", the Ombudsman 
was at pain to distinguish his latest report from the 1994 investigation 
into a similar incident at Richmond Secondary College (RSC), arguing that 
it was a "completely different set of circumstances."

The Ombudsman is right: whereas the RSC incident was a protest against neo-
liberal education cuts, the S11 protests against the World Economic Forum 
questioned the very foundation that lay behind such (il)logic.

Far from being the "thorough and impartial investigation" that it purported 
to be, the report was very much ideologically driven on sources mainly from 
puppets of the capitalist class: the media and police.

The Ombudsman found that police violence was justified on grounds that 
protestors had engaged in an "unyielding" and "non-negotiable" blockading 
strategy.

He relied mainly on the good words from the police and the total-blockade 
policy adopted by the so-called "representatives" of S11.

Much relevant but contradictory evidence was also ignored in the report or 
dismissed as "particular circumstances of the case".

Investigation into one incident involving two complaints by members of the 
CPA affinity group was conveniently incomplete at the time of tabling the 
report. This changed the status of the incident from being a public matter 
to a private one.

The incident, which was incidentally omitted from police logs, involved an 
unprovoked, unexpected and unnecessary act of horse ramming and baton 
wielding at a barricade on Queensbridge St, trapping symbolic protestors 
and according to S11/CFMEU medical records, leaving at least six people 
injured.

The Ombudsman's office claimed itself to be an "independent, impartial and 
free service". Perhaps it should be changed to "indisposing, imbalanced, 
fucked service".

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