Police, protesters talk down prospect of violence at G20


Queensland police and anti-G20 protestors are talking down the prospect of mass violence at next week’s summit of world leaders in Brisbane.


Authorities say G20 opponents have been co-operating well, while some protest organisers say trouble could just as well be started by overzealous policing.

Six-thousand police and soldiers will secure Brisbane in Australia's largest peace-time security operation.

Large parts of Brisbane’s CBD will be locked down in the lead-up and during the summit.

“I’m concerned that the media and the state continuously attempt to represent any people who are raising their voices or concerned about what’s happening in the G20 meeting as potentially violent protestors,” said Robin Taubenfeld, spokeswoman for the Brisbane Community Action Network, also known as BrisCan-G20.

“We see a broad range of community activities in the week leading up to the G20 including pray vigils, street theatre, mock tax havens, forums, symposiums, musical events. Our community is diverse and very creative.”

Queensland police negotiators have been liaising for up to 18 months with the 26 register protest groups.

“The one thing I can comment on is every single group I've dealt with so far are genuine, decent people who have an expectation they will be allowed to exercise their right to protest lawfully,” said inspector Tony Montgomery-Clarke.

“The Queensland Police Service will do absolutely do everything we can to facilitate that. As to whether there will be violence or not, I certainly hope not, and that’s why we’re here talking to the groups.”

Police expect about 2,000 protestors, though admit that is only a rough estimate.

They include a diverse range of interest groups.

“The leaders of the 20 largest economies are gathering in Brisbane to further an economic agenda which creates disparity between the rich and the poor, perpetuates ecological destruction, is based on a system of injustice, colonisation, and really what they’re doing is not in the interest of the greater good of humanity,” said Robin Taubenfeld from BrisCan-G20.

Police expect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to make up the largest group of demonstrators.

“There’ll be marches for black deaths in custody, there’ll be marches for the continuing stolen generation, against mining companies destroying our land,” Boe Spearim from the Brisbane Aboriginal Tent Embassy said.

They will also be joined by anti-Putin protestors.

“We will have a lot of Australians there from a Ukrainian background, we’ll be seeing friends from the Georgian community, Baltic community, Polish community and (also) gay community concerned for example by Mr Putin’s homophobia,” Pete Shmigel, spokesman for the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations. told SBS.

A rhetorical threat of violence did come from an unexpected quarter when Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirt-front” Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian community says their protests will be a dignified.

“We try to embody the values we are talking about. This protest is about saying democratic values are more important that dictatorships, so it behoves us to behave in a very good, civil and democratic way,” Mr Shmigel said.

Fear of a repeat of mass violence like at G20 in Toronto or death of a by-stander at the hands of police, like at G20 in London, are low.

The largest protest is expected on Saturday 15 November including a march to Musgrave Park.

The park is a traditional rallying point for protests against international events like the 1982 Commonwealth Games and Expo 88 and lies just a few hundred meters from the Brisbane Convention Centre, where the world leaders will meet.

Last year's police eviction of the Aboriginal tent embassy from the park is seen by some as a sign of where the trouble could come from.

“Most likely the police, their gearing up, they're gearing up for violence, you know, when you look at a police officer, they're prepared for violence,” said Boe Spearim.

Inspector Tony Montgomery-Clarke said police respect the right of people to protest.

“Come along and exercise your legal right to protest, that’s not a problem at all, the Queensland Police Service welcomes it. All that we ask is that you respect others and behave in a reasonable manner,” he said.

One anonymous website calling itself Plan B suggests people take violent actions away from the main venue.

Queensland police will not comment on if they have identified the author of the site.

“I'm not going to go into details about our intelligence and the information that we do have but you can expect that police do an awful amount of investigative work if we have threats like that from any group,” said Katarina Carroll, Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner responsible for G20.

So far authorities have only banned two people from Brisbane during the G20 next week.