Lex Wotton visit will draw connections and build the movement

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This Melbourne speakout, called to demand freedom for Nestora Salgado on the first anniversary of her incarceration, drew connections with other indigenous and working class political prisoners, including Lex Wotton.

Palm Island Aboriginal leader, Lex Wotton, will visit Melbourne from 16 to 23 November for a speaking tour, which will highlight how the campaign to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody is as urgent today as it was when police officer, Chris Hurley, killed Mulrunji Doomadgee 10 years ago.

The visit will also build union and community support for a class action lodged in June against the State of Queensland and the Police Commissioner. Lex, his partner, Cecilia, and his mother, Agnes, argue that police discriminated against them on the basis of their race, which includes allowing officers with a conflict of interest to take part in the investigation of Mulrunji’s death.

Lex is Australia’s most high-profile political prisoner this century. He was found guilty of riot and sentenced to six years’ jail in 2008 for his role in a very necessary protest against what was clearly another police cover-up of a death in custody. A mass community campaign saw him released on parole two years later, but he was kept politically muzzled by the parole conditions until July this year. Now he is finally free to speak.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne is organising the speaking tour. Australia Asia Worker Links is organising a program of meetings with unionists.

Organising is not a crime! The first day of the tour coincides with a global day of action to stop repression against unionists and indigenous people. Under the banner of “Free Our Comrades,” Lex will march with a contingent in the anti-Abbott protests called to coincide with the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane. His experience of being jailed and then politically muzzled mirrors that of working class and indigenous fighters the world over. When the ruling class feels threatened, all too often the response is to shut ’em up and lock ’em up!

The contingent will demand freedom for a host of political prisoners, many jailed for union organising.

In Thailand, repression is on the rise, with many jailed under draconian Lèse Majesté laws against criticising the King. Union activist, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 11 years’ jail.

In Iran, independent trade union leader and bus driver, Reza Shahabi, remains in jail. Arrested in 2010, he was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “collusion against national security,” and “propaganda against the state.”

In Pakistan, the union movement is campaigning to free the Faisalabad Six. These activists were sentenced to long jail terms, allegedly for “terrorism” after organising a 100,000-strong strike of textile workers in 2010.

There are currently hundreds of political prisoners, including indigenous people and trade unionists, in Colombia’s jails. The U.S. also excels in jailing opponents it wants to silence: among them are Mumia Abu-Jamal, Chelsea Manning, Native American activist, Leonard Peltier, and the Cuban Five.

The international campaign to free Mexican indigenous leader, Nestora Salgado, and other political prisoners jailed for organising to defend their communities will join Lex to march in this contingent and pursue the call for Mexican President Peña Nieto to “open the prison doors.”

Sign up to support. There will be many opportunities to hear Lex Wotton speak throughout the week. A media conference is planned for 19 November, the 10th anniversary of Doomadgee’s death in the Palm Island watch-house. The tour will end with a public meeting and reception planned for the evening of 22 November.

To get involved, come to the upcoming meetings of ISJA Melbourne or email: alison.thorne@ozemail.com.au

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