The Victorian Ombudsman, Dr Barry Perry, has produced a disgraceful report, giving police the green light to bash protesters who participate in mass blockades. Nine months to the day after the brutal assault by police on those protesting the World Economic Forum meeting, the Ombudsman presented his initial report in State Parliament. On the fundamental question — do police have the right to physically assault peaceful protesters — the Ombudsman says “yes”!
It is clear the Ombudsman agrees that the role of the Victoria police is to enforce capitalist rule. Faced with the choice between defending the right of a wealthy minority to meet and decide how best to exploit the majority and the right of the majority to resist, the Ombudsman backs the minority.
Perry’s claim to be “objective” and “impartial,” free from “the cacophony of subjective opinion,” is a sick joke. His report demeans protesters as seeing things through “the prism of their own political views, prejudices or emotion.” Those who flooded his office with complaints described the brutality they witnessed or experienced. But Perry concluded a blockade is “confrontational,” and the use of force without arrest was “a decision which was reasonably open to police in the circumstances.”
Perry’s report is extremely dangerous — it gives the official nod to police to use violence against citizens who dissent. What’s next? Last June in Social Democratic Sweden, the police used live ammunition to shoot at anti-capitalist protesters. In July, police shot and killed anti-G8 protesters in Genoa. The Ombudsman has to go and be replaced with an independent watchdog with teeth. A Civilian Review Board (CRB), elected by and accountable to the majority, is urgently required. A CRB could not change the fundamental class nature of the police force. But if it had real powers, it could be a powerful tool in the fight to curb police abuse.