When John, a disability pensioner, installed a CCTV camera at his Preston home, he had no idea that the violent thugs he’d catch would be police! In April, graphic footage made headlines of six police officers visiting his home in 2017 for a “welfare check.” He was beaten, humiliated and capsicum sprayed. Images of more cases of police brutality quickly surfaced: a psychotic African Australian man viciously assaulted in a Preston chemist shop; an Indigenous youth slammed against a metal door in a Bendigo police cell, then left bleeding on the floor. With the media finally interested, victims of state violence grabbed the moment to tell their stories and be heard.
Legal advocates, who’ve long argued the police complaints system is broken, are demanding an end to the practice of police investigating police. Internal investigations allow cops to close ranks: cover-ups are rife, police victims are intimidated and their complaints routinely dismissed. But more is required than simply an independent body. The police need to be put under community control. To do this, investigative bodies must be well resourced, have the powers to investigate, discipline and charge police, and they must be accountable to communities that directly elect them.
Unaccountable police are being given too many weapons and powers. This is happening around the country. Take Queensland, where police were heavily armed and given sweeping new powers ahead of the Commonwealth Games. This included stop-and-search powers and huge protective security zones. An extra 3,000 police were deployed to the Gold Coast for the duration of the event.
This massive army of state power turned much of its attention to Aboriginal activists protesting the Stolenwealth Games and demanding to be recognised as Australia’s sovereign owners. Following in the footsteps of protests at the 1982 Brisbane and 2006 Melbourne Games, activists put invasion and colonisation on the agenda at the Gold Coast Games. Mobilised by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance and Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy, these determined and articulate young leaders were disciplined and focused. Their objective? A massive outpouring of truth-telling and getting their voices heard. When the Queen’s Baton Relay was blocked for an hour, it was clear that international media were reporting from stolen land. Despite the protests sometimes being vastly out-numbered by police, who declared “they would not tolerate disruptive behaviour,” First Nations warriors broadcast a message loud and proud that colonisation is not a game!
Police excesses are out of control! All their targets — including First Nations people, youth, refugee and immigrant communities, militant unionists, the homeless, people with mental illnesses, anti-fascists activists — need to unite. Society is becoming ever-more unequal, leaving those at the bottom with no option but to resist. The police uphold the rule of the bosses and the current order. The way to permanently end police brutality is to oust capitalism and put the working class majority in charge.