Free David Hicks – 16 February [and RAC at Federation Square]

This was one of a series of protests, not all of which are represented here. There is a report on Melbourne Indymedia of a protest held at the same place on 2 February, with photos and video attached, and the original report of today’s action (see here) also contains audio from the speeches.[These pages are no longer accessible.]

Rod Quantock speaking
Melbourne comedian Rod Quantock was one of two main speakers at last Friday’s weekly vigil at Casselden Place in support of David Hicks. As usual the event was organised by Civil Rights Defence […]

Shannon Price, from CRD: “… with every day that passes we see more and more heat on John Howard to get David Hicks out of Guantanamo Bay …” –

Shannon Price speaking

(“JOHN Howard is bowing to mounting pressure over the David Hicks debacle and is working to bring him home before this year’s federal election, highly placed sources have revealed to The Sunday Age.” – The Sunday Age, 18 February –

Rod Quantock – Speaking first as a comedian, and recalling the effect on his career of the exit of Jeff Kennett:

I’ve got a mortage and a family, and I’m torn between human rights and the dignity of humanity in general and having a stable economy with low interest rates. And so it’s a difficult thing … I guess my position is ‘Get David Hicks home, but please keep John Howard in power …’
More seriously: Today the Americans announced new charges against David Hicks which include spying, talking to an Englishman that took a shoe bomb on a aeroplane, being on the frontline for two hours with a rifle before he left … no matter how many times you gather here.. the US are not going to find David Hicks [not] guilty – they have to find him guilty.. The credibility of the US … rests very heavily on finding David Hicks guilty…
I’m optimistic to a point, but I’m very well aware that the most powerful empire in the world has brought the entire weight of its dishonesty, its almost Stalinistic approach to dealing with dissent and those people who they have in their gunsights, and David Hicks has suffered, and suffered beyond any imagining that I have, unfortunately [he] is now the ‘white terrorist’, the Australian terrorist Howard’s terrorism campaign, Howard’s stance as being ‘tough on terror’, of being the ‘Man of Steel’, of being the man with the guts and the heart and the courage to pursue terrorism wherever it goes depends on David Hicks being found guilty …
It’s not a particularly funny topic, but it is … a pivotal topic in terms of how we behave as a nation. The rights of one Australian are the rights of every Australian. There are people here with beards and long hair who could be at any moment taken off the streets – Scott Parkin was taken off the street, still doesn’t know what he was charged with … As we fight terror we become more like the terrorists themselves …

Rod Quantock addressing the protest

The other speaker was a relative of one of the “Barwon 13” – as placards and Shannon Price reminded us, they will shortly have been in detention for 500 days in conditions apparently deliberately modelled on those at Guantanamo Bay. While describing these conditions, he expressed a fear that having spoken out he would no longer be allowed to visit:

Relative of one of the 'Barwon 13'

[he] is in solitary confinement for up to 20 hours a day, 21 hours depending on the guards, how they’re feeling. Fot the 3 hours he’s allowed outside of his cell he walks up and down a cricket pitch – it’s 11 metres long – and then back into his cell… Intimidated, harassed, the guards try time and time again if they can get the men to turn on each other, to get them to fight, argue, turn each other in. But these men are unbreakable. They know they’re devout Muslims and they’re there because of other agendas … Before any visit … [he] gets strip seached before and after. Any court appearances … shackled, handcuffed … Guantanamo Bay jump suits, orange .. It’s unbelievable …

Meanwhile, activist group Getup has started a campaign of orange billboards in support of David Hicks. This one was photographed on Friday afternoon on a building at the corner of LaTrobe and Spencer Streets:

Billboard - Bring David Hicks Home

Also on Friday campaigners from Melbourne’s Refugee Action Collective were down at Federation Square in the heat collecting signatures on a petition opposing the construction of Australia’s latest contribution to the history of human rights abuses – the new ultra-high tech detention centre being built out of the way on Christmas Island – Alcatraz and Devil’s Island rolled into one and brought up to date …

RAC activists at Federation Square with maps of Christmas Island detention centre