CounterAct provides training, capacity building and resources to environmental and social justice campaigners across Australia.

Black Lives Matter – still, and always


Posted on June 5th, by Counteractive in Uncategorized. No Comments

Black Lives Matter – still, and always

Always and and always will be Aboriginal Land. Black lives have always mattered. Not just this week, not the last time there was an outrageous beating, or death in custody. Not the 402 times since the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in custody over twenty years ago. Not just when Rodney King was the first live broadcast beating, resulting in riots in LA 30 years ago, and not just when colonisers killed Aboriginal people for sport, and to drive them off their lands in the last 230 years.

** Please note, flag is upside down in feature image as sign of distress

They have mattered for millennia. When First Nations people across the Aboriginal nations of Australia (or any other First Nations people who are at high risk, including the US at thus time), African American people in the United States or anywhere ask white allies (or as some prefer, accomplices) to turn out – that is what we should do. We will be there, this weekend and next, after seeing huge actions in Perth and Sydney in recent days.

GET INFORMED

We have added some newly collated resources to our Solidarity resources page, so dig in. If you are new to anti racist work, please do your homework. Educate yourself (don’t ask Aboriginal ppl or POC to do it), listen, don’t take the mike, or centre your feelings.

** EDIT – all the places to donate are listed in there as well – funds for the families of people have been killed in custody – please donate – a new one was just launched by NATSILS here.

If you are new to this – whether black or white – know that people have been working on this for decades before you came along and honour that work and experience by listening and learning.

Map of Australia with deaths in custody shown each state
Map of Australia with deaths in custody shown each state

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Our friends at Grata Fund have written up a brief overview of the current health directives that police have been using to fine people during Covid that may be relevant for protesters.

WARNING: If you see legal information circulated, please ensure its correct for your jurisdiction – this information looks helpful for Brisbane from WAR and Fitzroy Legal, Rob Starry’s office are providing information for Melbourne.

There is some additional discretion police have during this time, so you may want to check your local legislation. A running list of legislative changes during Covid is HERE. And you can check out our fact sheets for general protest in most states here. We have lots of other helpful resources for protest organisers too, including action checklists, managing police engagement, suggestions for secure communications and more.

Whilst you should check your local state/territory legislation these are some general guidelines that apply across the board – but please cross check

  • You only need to give your name and address (& some states Date of birth)
  • Police generally need a reason to ask for this, such as suspicion of committing a crime (check your local jurisdiction)
  • You should be able to call a lawyer
  • If it arises, you can ask if you are under arrest, what for, and then assert your right to silence – we recommend not talking to police
  • You have a right to film people (including police) in public places, though you should exercise discretion in this for people who don’t want to be photographed, children, and some people have had their cameras taken if police believe there is evidence of a crime (or their own bad behaviour) on there – so be careful

What is critical to understand is that policing involves a significant amount of discretion. Sometimes that is useful – in that whilst large gatherings are theoretically banned, police in most states have applied discretion and understood it will be more of an escalation to not allow marches to proceed. Sydney’s situation is still contested (as of 5/6) but we’d guess is going ahead.

AUSTRALIAN POLICING IS DIFFERENT TO THE UNITED STATES

Whilst the images coming out from the United States are shocking and it feels like we are watching a live stream of a failed state descending into fascism – a lot of the “less lethal” weapons are not used in Australia. This includes rubber bullets, concussion grenades, “flash bangs”, tracers, and pepper spray rounds*. Tear gas is only used here (unfortunately & often inappropriately) in prisons.

The one thing that is used occasionally in Australia is pepper spray. And it varies signficiantly state to state. It is rarely used on a standard rally and march, unless there is conflict. Victorian police have some quite strong pepper spray (OC spray) and may have recently upgraded their pepper spray weapons, however, as we said, we have rarely seen it used at a peaceful march and rally.

EDIT 7/6 (Very disappointing to see unlawful use of pepper spray in Sydney and “kettling” tactics by police at the end of a very well organised and peaceful event our statement here, we will be working with street medics to update a first aid fact sheet for pepper spray)

It has been used at blockade type situations such as a mining conference or in marches where people challenge nazis and white supremacists. And very occasionally in deeply inappropriate situations – for example on someone completely immobilised by being locked to equipment stopping fracking – this is unlawful use.

Image by Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance

STAY SAFE

Basic safety tips here. Use hand sanitiser and masks, (at some events they are being supplied), stay apart as much as possible, have a buddy, and STAY HOME IF SICK, or if concerned re immunocompromised. Tweet from home and boost the message #BlackLivesMatterAustralia

You can find correct information about irrigation of pepper spray here, plus extensive detail on the role of Street Medics. PLEASE BE CAREFUL – there is significant misinformation spread about what works and doesn’t with pepper spray. Most medics recomend a liquid antacid mix (diluted Mylanta) if possible, milk as a back up, and water if nothing else at hand.

It is very unlikely you will be hurt or pepper sprayed unless protesters disobey or disrespect the directives of Aboriginal people – who have all called for peaceful protests. PLEASE – if you are white, and thinking about smashing things – remember that you are there in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Aboriginal Lives matter – and THEY ARE ASKING YOU to stay peaceful, because they will bear the brunt of police violence, should things escalate. This is not a judgement of actions in other areas, but simply re-stating the wishes of all organised events we have seen.

BE AWARE OF MISINFORMATION

Whether that be well meaning memes describing laws and situations that simply do not apply in Australia, or rumours of property damage or that there is a contingent of Nazis planning to turn up – misinformation can be used to scare us and keep us away, or to encourage in-fighting. Try and find the facts before repeating. Trust that there are experienced organisers leading in most areas and they have considered safety as a high priority – whether relating to Covid or policing tactics.

GOOD PROTESTER/VS BAD PROTESTER

Please don’t buy into this binary. There is understandable rage in the United States and in some places that has spilled over into property destruction. *Property* destruction, not people destruction. As Native Americans and African Americans reflect on the way their homelands have been treated, as extractivist resources and then poisonous wastelands they have said, “we learned looting from YOU”. The people on the streets are marching for human life – in the US, at great risk – of injury, or Covid 19. Whether you agree or disagree, its not helpful to condemn people whose situation you don’t understand, nor have experienced.

There is much excellent analysis you can find to understand these perspectives more deeply. Cornel West is always great value. THis is an excellent speech from Tamika Mallory, saying “we learned violence from you”. We will add more shortly.

And finally, stay safe, and AMPLIFY THE MESSAGE – follow the hashtags of the event and share pictures on your facebook, twitter, insta, tic tok – (Guide to live tweeting) instigate conversations with friends – think what can YOU do to turn this from a moment into a movement…and build on the work already done.





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