Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle yesterday used police resources to brutally crush the peaceful Occupy Melbourne protest, apparently at the request of a few retailers.
Doyle’s action, like those of the police, was a grossly heavyhanded over-reaction, there for all to see on the internet, and displayed an extraordinary disregard for and ignorance of both public safety and the principles of democracy. It only served to reinforce the protesters’ point that governments too often act in the interests of financial elites instead of the people they are supposed to represent.
I shudder to think what level of violence would have been employed if the protest had had any real prospect of changing the status quo, like, say, in Egypt, where even the army showed greater restraint than the police did yesterday.
We are owed an explanation from the Lord Mayor’s office and from police management as to how this hamfisted strategy came to be employed, especially the discredited “kettling” technique which seems to have violent panic as its sole aim.
The argument that “they’ve made their point” does not wash: as the editorial in today’s Australian (hardly supporters of the Occupy cause) said: “It is not for…Robert Doyle or anyone else to decide when they have had sufficient time to make their point. There is no meter running on freedom of expression.”
Doyle needs to admit his mistake, apologise to those he has harmed, drop all charges (“trespass” in a public space, indeed!), and go back to school to study the fundamentals of Western-style democracy.