From the Archives >> Good Friday @ Woomera, 2002

February 6, 2009

This comes from an email newsletter I published between 2001 and 2004 called Imaginepeace Update. The newsletter was born due to the frustration and anger I felt towards the conservative Howard Government of Australia which was demonising asylum seekers and refugees. The climax came for me when John Howard, the Prime Minister, told the Australian people that the asylum seekers were throwing children overboard and the whole shameful  Tampa boat  incident. Just click on the links to get the historical picture.

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 Just after I started sending out the Imaginepeace Updates I heard from a friend that some people were organising to go to Woomera to support those behind the razor wire. I then organised a group of people in the Hunter region of NSW to go at Easter, 2002.

 

  

This was a social experiment as well because it was one of the first Actions in the world which was organised by using the Internet.

 The Woomera Action to support the innocent refugees caged behind the razor wire in the desert was one of the world’s first social action protest to use the incredible organising facility of the Internet. Way back in 2002 when we were preparing the desert action the authorities did not think it was possible to organise a national protest action in the inhospitable Australian desert. The concept of a flat, non hierarchical matrix with networks which had no “leader”, no Central Control Commission (CCC) was a foreign concept to them. Ideas like  “clusters” and “affinity groups” born in action by anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, yes the one that George Orwell went to fight in, were also foreign and did not compute in their strategic mindset. These early 20th Century ideas translated into the 21st Century Internet have proved incredibly powerful in the struggle by grass roots groups against authoritarianism.

The government thought the whole idea was crazy and doomed to failure. It is because they didn’t know the possibilities of organising using this new technology that the Woomera Action was so successful. Successful? Apart from the breakout of the refugees, the Woomera Detention Camp was closed down soon after the Action.

I believe that because the Festival of Freedoms was organised by the net, we took the authorities by surprise and this is why they weren’t prepared for us. The government did not think it was possible to organise a protest action out in the inhospitable desert. It had not factored in the logistical and organising matrix of the world wide web. Indeed, the concept of affinity groups and decentralised organic action with no centralised leaders also derailed their expectations. Another term for the organising principle we used is Segmented Polycentric Integrated Networks (SPINs). It was this experience which made the Flotillas of Hope Action to Nauru possible.

 

The Woomera2002 "logo". The circles represent affinity groups, joined to the Spokes Council.

The Woomera2002 “logo”. The circles represent affinity groups, joined to the Spokes Council.

I remember talking with journalists, who just didn’t get it. They kept saying, “Take us to your Leader”. They didn’t comprehend a leaderless organising principle using a non – hierarchical web to facilitate Action. I kept humming to myself the song by Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” with its chorus “Something is going on and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?” whenever a journalist would try to work out who was the leader. We obviously had the “Megaphones” who were trying to take away the anarchic spirit manifesting in the moment and to channel it into a “Socialist” box, but the Action and the Freedom energy was too big for the “Megaphones” to control.

The events at Woomera Concentration Camp, Easter, 2002 where refugees escaped and we looked after the escapees in our tents meant that those present had to look deep into their conscience and act from their hearts. The Howard government threatened to put us all in gaol for 25 years and labelled us “terrorists”. Woomera was closed down soon after the Woomera Festival of Freedoms Action. I am proud of being there.

 Anyway, go back in time and read an email I wrote in 2002.

 stavros 

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Hard copy flyer for the Festival of Freedoms. Very few of these were made because the Action was web based.

Hard copy flyer for the Festival of Freedoms. Very few of these were made because the Action was web based. Flyer displayed in sections here and below.

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This is the original Woomera 2002 "logo" for the website which helped create the Festival of Freedoms Action. The Flotillas of Hope, 2004 can be seen as a child of Woomera 2002.

This is the original Woomera 2002 “logo” for the website which helped create the Festival of Freedoms Action. The Flotillas of Hope, 2004 can be seen as a child of Woomera 2002.

woomera2002-call-to-action

Good Friday at Woomera, 2002

Only now do I feel that I can write my account of what happened on Good Friday at Woomera. The last couple of weeks I’ve been in another mental and emotional state. It is only now that I can see it was due to the life transforming events at the razor wire of the Woomera Concentration Camp.

I and ten others from Newcastle and Sydney travelled together on the HOPE Caravan. The HOPE Caravaners – Jane, Ruth, Norman, Sabrina, Dave, Ross, Melanie, Margaret, Paul, Elizabeth and myself  set off from Newcastle to go to Woomera at Easter. Woomera is a desert town in South Australia about 500 kms north west from Adelaide. It is a town in a huge, what the Times Atlas calls, Military Prohibited Area which covers about 200,000 square kilometers. Woomera is also near Maralinga, the only place in Australia which has had a nuclear bomb drop on it, wounding our country and releasing radiation which has killed many Aboriginal people and others.

 
Free the refugees!

Free the refugees!

Woomera is the place where Australia houses one of six concentration camps for innocent asylum seekers. Woomera,Curtin and Port Hedland because of their isolation can also be seen as gulags. So, the smiling hospitable face of Australia, with its beautiful fireworks and eternity on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Olympic Games, 2000 now in 2002, has razor wire braces with tear gas and capsicum spray replacing the fireworks. Eternity is now a leaking boat carrying desperate people seeking asylum…which we, as a country deter and deny. The open harbour is now a gulag in some inhospitable desert. Is this Australia? Which face is ours? Was the smiling, welcoming face shown to over 2 billion people across the globe during the Olympics just a public relations act? Whatever it was, our Prime Minister ensured that his smiling face would like wall paper blend into the Big Olympic Welcome Smile. In two years the self image of Australia and the image seen across the globe have undergone a transformation, like watching a movie – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Dorian Gray and Time, where the prince is now a toad – transformation in reverse.

 

)

A local Broken Hill newspaper article about us “spreading the word” as to why we were going to Woomera. The night at the pub was an amzing experience of open discussion and almost fist fighting then concluding with hugs. Talking beats fighting ALWAYS!

Funny thing happened along the way with our name. Hunter Organisation for Peace and Equity took on  new skin and became Hunter Organism for Peace and Equity. The transformation from an organisation to an organism became complete when we arrived at Woomera on Good Friday. There we saw and felt what it was like to be part of a living Organism. An organisation is too structured, it smells of committees and hierarchy, in fact, in the context of HOPE it can be nuanced as  corporate. 
The cry of FREEDOM from the detainees at Woomera Concentration Camp, resonated with our empathic and sympathetic cry of FREEDOM on the other side of the razor wire. We cried with them as they cried with us – real tears, wet ones.  The detainees freed themselves – we have footage to show this and will be available on the new hopecaravan website. We freed ourselves by our presence, actions and awareness. Whether it was a balls up by ACM and the State to allow the detainees to escape or whether it was a miracle, the fact is detainees now know that there are people, Australians, that care and don’t want innocent asylum seekers caged like animals. 

Sign on our bus, on the way to Woomera.

Sign on our bus, on the way to Woomera.

The living reality of travelling together for days to participate in a festival of freedoms precluded an “organisation” but allowed the living practice of inclusion and a trust that whatever a member did or said as part of HOPE Caravan was speaking and acting on all of our behalfs. One for all and all for one!  HOPE has many tongues, arms, legs, hearts and minds. I saw that we, ordinary people, together with a common intent can achieve wonders without hierarchy, without leaders. Working from a matrix of networks whose diversity reflects the diversity within each affinity group  achieved more than we dreamed was possible.


Broken Hill supporters made kites to fly when we passed through their town.

Broken Hill supporters made kites to fly when we passed through their town.

The combined presence by all woomera2002 activists gave hope to those without papers behind the razor wire.    

 

 

The first razor wire fence to fall on the way to supporting the refugees.

The first razor wire fence to fall on the way to supporting the refugees.

Two members of HOPE Caravan,  are maintaining a presence at Woomera having established the Woomera Refugee Embassy. By their presence the detainees have some hope and a clearing house for their voices. Other members of HOPE will be visiting the Refugee Embassy at Woomera. If you are interested in visiting and supporting HOPE’s efforts in Woomera become a member of the hopecaravan email group  hopecaravan-subscribe@yahoogroups.com  and visit  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hopecaravan/

A hand painted message by local Newcastle people to the refugees.

A hand painted message by local Newcastle people to the refugees.

Perhaps Woomera2002 at Easter will only be a short footnote in some Australian history text book in the years to come. Perhaps it won’t be recorded at all in any official version of history. As we all know, footnotes don’t tell the whole story. And, “History” as catalogued in the State’s book shelf has great need of revision to include  herstory and ourstory to reflect the diversity of time bodies and experiences of all Australians….better still as Earthlings. One Earth under One Sky.

 Stavros

 

imaginepeace update April 2, 2002

 hi everyone,

 some desert dust must have gone into my laptop so the shift key don’t work. spoke to dave last night just after returning to morpeth. He told me everything he said on the email. so, yes dave and ross obviously have all
our support. we must now consider ongoing support for both re money etc.
julian burnside qc will be defending the arrested ones in may along with dave…this is great news.

 yesterday i had an interview with sbs world news and this morning i’m waiting on a call from darwin abc. sbs was particularly interested in the stories about the viloent protest. i made it very clear that the whole event
was peaceful and that none of us expected the detainees to escape. they wanted info on our weapons….weapons indeed…all we had were our sympathetic hearts, open arms to receive the freed ones. the only rock thrown was one by our fellow hope memebr, paul, who wrapped a 50 dollar note around it and a detainee caught it like a good cricketer.

 

———————————

i just finished the interview with darwin abc and the reporter said that it will more than likely be broadcast nationally on abc radio, probably lunch time today. all journos are interested in the so called violence and planned
actions to free the detainees. i have made it clear to everyone who has spoken with me that there were no weapons, that we did not plan to liberate the detainees ..that we were thrilled with the outcome, that the freed
detainees came to the woomera2002 camp where we gave support and hid them from the authorities, that as far as i knew thru telephone contact that the detainees freed  had in some way been spirited away from woomera were safe and being looked after by fellow protesters, that i don’t know where they are, that yes, we realise that to support escaped detainees carries a jail sentence, that as far as i am concerned the detainees should be free because they are innocent asylum seekers who should never be incarcerated in a concentration camp, that the concentration camps are illegal from a global human rights perspective, that as far as i know, no escapees went wandering into the desert.

we have now entered the propaganda war phase. i told both sbs and abc that the whole thing could have been a set up to allow us to enter the area, to pull down the first fence with no resistance from police, that sand bags
were left on the ground which we used to keep the razor wire covered so that our brothers and sisters could walk on the fallen fence without any fear of being cut. when the detainees wriggled and squeezed through the iron bars of the cage, no police tried to stop tyhem. i believe that the authorities who knew about the woomera2002 event beforehand moved a whole bunch of 
detainees before we arrived and had kept only 300 there, the detainees that could not be processed, “the ones who more than likely were criminals etc”, funny about that because there many children still in detention…criminal kids! So, I think that the authorities made it easy for us and the detainees whoescaped so that they could then orchestrate stories using one off pictures to “prove” their point that we are a bunch of “soccer hooligans”. In other words, the demonisation of asylum seekers is now being perpetrated on australian citizens, peaceful protesters. But, they will not get away with this…we have our own footage, we have our own voices, we have our own support and we are articulate – we speak english and we have our own
alternative media thru the internet.

The propaganda wars have begun. Truth will prevail! thanks to all of you who have shown support  in every conceivable way.  We now have to write letters to newspapers, write articles, talk with the media. I will work on the HOPE Website today and see if i can upload images etc . i have hundreds and Paul has great video footage which I will pick up on saturday which I will transform into didgital images to be uploaded.

See you all soon.
peace, love and joy
steve g AKA stavros

 

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“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis” – Dante

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture as adapted from an original pencil drawing done by an inmate of Woomera. He gave us permission to use this image on our Hope Caravan Group Homepage.

This picture was adapted from an original pencil drawing done by an inmate of Woomera. He gave us permission to use this image on our Hope Caravan Group Homepage.

We brought along a giant kite which flew the FREEDOM banner in the sky! Refugees who escaped told us in our tent that they could see it flying high in the sky above their razor wired prison.

We brought along a giant kite which flew the FREEDOM banner in the sky! Refugees who escaped told us in our tent that they could see it flying high in the sky above their razor wired prison.

At the camp.

The Guards in their Darth Vader get ups during the Blockade. No journalist was allowed in and no one was allowed out.

We met, as affinity groups, to discuss and strategise during the Spokescouncils. Democracy - in - Action!

We met, as affinity groups, to discuss and strategise during the Spokescouncils. Democracy – in – Action!

We had to bring our own water because we were in the desert. This is our water tank draped over by HOPE Caravan's FREEDOM Banner.

We had to bring our own water because we were in the desert.                   The  water  tank was organised by Melbourne groups and is here draped over by HOPE Caravan’s FREEDOM Banner.

Flyer distributed by No One Is Illegal group in Melbourne.

Flyer distributed by No One Is Illegal group in Melbourne.

=========================================================================================

Woomera – Saturday Night is the loneliest night
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is a buzz around the camp after a successfull 48 hours of direct
action. People believe that we are now able to permantly close down
the concentration camp. 2000 people at Easter, 10,000 at Christmas.
Live gigs have started and the party is begining to rock.
http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24300&group=webca
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A protester’s account of being arrested for being ‘suspected of being
a detainee’
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s
not easy being brown. But it can be a lot of fun. Late last night
we found
our campsite completely surrounded by cops and APS officers
waiting to nab
the friends that we had rescued from Woomera. I thought
it would be both
amusing and a good waste of their time and resources
if they did catch a
detainee — if that `detainee’ was me.

So I headed for the police
roadblock where I was surrounded by seven
or eight cops who grabbed me
sneering “You’re one of those escaped
detainees, aren’tcha?”

I
denied this (in a very bad, stereotypically Middle-Eastern accent),
and then
started yelling that I wanted a lawyer, that I was a citizen,
I had rights,
etc. etc. These morons actually fell for what was
becoming the most pathetic
impersonation of a detainee ever performed
and decided to search me, removing
lethal weapons such as tic tacs,
extra shoelaces and my
toothbrush.

I was freaking out that such a ridiculous plan was
actually working,
so I dropped my silly accent and told the cops that I was
in fact an
Australian citizen with identification back at camp. Not good
enough –
this little darkie got arrested. They forced me into the back of
their
van, locked me in and drove me to the station.

When I was
removed from the van I was photographed and then had all my
stuff — beanie,
shoes, necklaces — confiscated. A religious necklace
that I couldn’t remove
was cut from my neck. I colourfully told the
cops how badly they had screwed
up their arrest and about my rights,
to which one of them responded that I
was suspected of being a
detainee AND HAD NO RIGHTS. Well, that’s just
fucking dandy, isn’t it?
If you happen to be brown and near a detention
centre, some pigs in a
van can rock up and do whatever they like to you
because you happen to
be the right colour. Never mind that I was a
Bangladeshi immigrant
speaking fluent English — I could just as easily have
been one of
those damn Afghani terrorists who escaped and are a threat to
society
at large.

So I was handcuffed and put in a cell with 12
detainees who told me
about how they had been beaten when they were captured.
Among them was
a 12 year-old boy who we had seen bashed earlier as well as a
14
year-old and a man who had been savaged by APS pigs.

All the
detainees had scars and bruising either from beatings or
suicide attempts.
They told me about how they would rather fight to
stay in the jail cell — a
bare concrete floor with an open ceiling —
than be taken back to Woomera.
The men told me about the `jobs’ they
have (toilet cleaning, dishwashing and
maintenance) which pay around a
dollar an hour. The money they earn goes
towards buying things like
shoes and thongs from a `shop’ in the
camp.

Finally, an APS official called `Mr Dan’ came in. I can’t think
of
anything about Woomera that made it seem like a concentration camp
more
than watching a group of men call out serial numbers instead of
their own
names.

When the police realised their mistake, I was driven back to
camp. I
don’t know what will happen to my friends who were in the cell
with
me. But being arrested for being brown reflects what is driving
the
entire refugee debate: ignorance. People too culturally ignorant
to
tell one kind of person from another, people too stupid to
recognise
diversity and people too stubborn to accept others. It scares me
that
we live in a country where you can be arrested for the colour of
your
skin. But it scares me more that you can be locked away
indefinitely
for it while a nation turns its back on you.

Aamer
Rahman

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24322&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Desert
Spectacle – there’s neither violence or
non-violence out here — it’s pure
spectacle
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amid
all the talk and text, and among all the hype and hyperbole
surrounding the
actions of the last two days, the poles of “violent”
and “non-violent” have,
as is typical, been the ends we are supposed
to have swung between. But I beg
to differ.

Pure SPECTACLE has been the master of our desert
existence.

We all came here spurred by the image of spectacle, and
from the
moment we arrived we assumed lead roles in its temporary
show.

It was neither violence or non-violence that saw us march
across the
dusty span between us and them. Nor did the circus music we
marched
to, or the pink PVC clad activo-expressionists have anything to
do
with violence or non-violence — it was pure spectacle.

It was
the spectacle of the absurd — absurd tactics countering absurd
politics and
policy. We were all moving pictures, media sluts once
removed. The whole
action was captured on film at every angle —
spectacular fodder for the
spectacle machine. I saw a guy asked to
start drumming again — by a channel
7 cameraman! — of course he
obliged.

So if we think of the
intensity and degree of spectacle involved here
I think it’s clear that we’re
not trapped in the dichotomy of violence
or non-violence, but willing actors
in the spectacle of the desert —
and, may I say, it’s working.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24320&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Solidarity
at Woomera Jail
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A small, peaceful
support group spent today in front of Woomera police
station, offering our
support (and bail sureties) to the people inside
as best we could. Protestors
from inside and outside the detention
centre fences were held there, and
could often be heard singing
between negotiations with the police. The police
were friendly,
letting us pass in cigarettes, food and legal contact numbers
and
treating those inside the jail with respect as negotiations
around
bail conditions went on.

In the afternoon, our crew walked
closer to the fence and yelled
‘We’re still here’ to make sure they knew they
had support. We
realised we could see some of the people inside if we angled
our heads
around a few tarps, and waved and exchanged hellos with the
people
inside. After a few minutes an officer politely asked us to move
away,
and we did, happy to have seen our friends and comrades smiling
back
at us.

The town was quiet, but a few locals walked by, some
offering words of
support. One offered to get us some fresh water from his
house if we
needed it, and joked that the locals understood it had all been
an
accident and that the wind had knocked down the fence. His
friends
offered elaborate advice on how we could fold newspapers to
channel
that wind power at future protests. It was very encouraging to
be
reminded that some people in town are supportive of our presence
and
our actions. We are proud of the fact that we’ve maintained
a
nonviolent presence outside the prison all day, and we hope for
the
speedy release of all the incarcerated.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24299&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
comments
to a post: “Summing up the
Damage”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What has
happened at Woomera is a huge morale boost for the refugees,
who now know
that there ARE many Australians who care about them. The
secrecy around
detention of refugees has finally been broken down in
the last few months,
and the refugees have finally been given a human
face and voice and more
truth is coming out.

Ruddock/Howard and co. will have a lot of
brainstorming to do for
their public image.

If anything…
consider this. The detainees have consistently been
told that no-one in
australia cares about them, even been told they
are there for their own
protection from an australia that hates
them…  their plight. Well now they
at least can sleep at night with
hope. Hope knowing that they aren’t alone.
Aren’t totally isolated.
That there ARE people on the outside who care …
and maybe just maybe
those of us on the outside can see what a group of
determined people
can achieve. Shut em all down!!! Lets finish the job at
Woomera and
move on to the next one.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24190&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Another
red-dust dawn
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was strange spending a
night in a camp surrounded on all sides by a
police line. Even at midnight,
when the shifts changed and there were
very few cops on the ground, it was an
eerie feeling. It must have
been worse for the detainees that were with us,
surrounded by
unfamiliar faces, by a line of cops that wanted to put them
back in a
cage, and finally by the desert. But this is not some
white-urban
activist grief session — they knew that any chance was better
than no
chance. And we had worked together to make the escapes
happen
(spontaneous as it was). They told us during the night of the
beatings
and the suffering inside the camp. They told us of the endless wait

24 months, 26 months,… – just to know whether they could stay
in
Australia on a temporary visa or whether they would be deported back
to
face persecution, imprisonment or death.

All wanted to get out of the
camp and to Adelaide or some major city.
Some struck out on their own, others
went with drivers from the camp
to see how far they could get. We knew of the
road block down at Pt
Augusta, but some figured that there would be back ways
around the
town. The police say they have over 20 in custody, and 17 people
who
were helping them, but we also know that the detainees within the
camp
have been protesting all night so they couldn’t do a head
count.
Inside and out, we were doing what we could.

Dawn was
quiet. The police sweep we expected didn’t happen. The police
presence around
the camp was light. The rumored truckloads of federal
police didn’t appear.
And we had all heard the talk of a fall out
between the SA police and the
APS. But the morning turned into
afternoon, set-up continued, and (yet more)
meetings happened. The
direct action planned for the afternoon turned into a
peaceful ‘colour
and movement’ march through the prohibited area check point.
And we
are taking it slowly through the rest of the weekend, trying to
keep
clear and focused on why we are here.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24331&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A
Personal Account
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know were to start
except that I am still left with this
strong feeling of responsibility out of
my depth. Having people in my
care, having no idea how to deal with
it.

I never expected this to happen. Suddenly we have these people
half
way out, and what seems like a hopeless situation, theres only so
much
you can disguise someone, we’re trapped in the desert, everywhere
to
run, but no were to go.

We were so tired, the campsite
surrounded by riot police, road blocks.

All you want to do with this
big secret is divulge, tell everyone and
share the burden, but you can’t.
There were people more involved than
me, people willing to drive
out.

One of my friends was arrested with detainees, – today he’s on
bail,
apparently there is some tension between the south australian
police
who want to press charges, and the Federals who want to press
on.
It’s a serious offence, aiding and abetting, my friend faces 4
years
in jail. It seems so unfair.

What would you do, if a refuge
arrived on your doorstep? Suddenly we
had people in our tents, and amongst
the crowd. People with bruises
and scars, with pleading eyes, and their own
long stories. There is no
choice, like the guys who helped the Jews in
Germany said, – it was
not a question of whether to help but
how.

This guy was from Afghanistan; he has a sister my age and 3
brothers,
he is hardly older than me, and hasn’t seen or heard from his
family
for a year and a half. He’s been in Woomera for a year. We wanted
him
to decide what he wanted to do.

His quiet unreadable face is
suddenly tense, `Please, I don’t want to
go back, I can’t go back inside.’ I
asked what it is like – `it is
like prison, we are not allowed to sleep at
night, all we do is walk
around [the room,] there is nothing to do, no work
to fill up the
time, all we do is eat and sleep, eat and
sleep.’

He was there, sitting, expecting me to help, to know what to
do, I
have no idea, I try to be honest that his chances aren’t good, to
find
out what all the best options are, I want to go to bed and pretend
it
will all go away.

It seemed that for him this was just more of
the same, the hiding,
fleeing, the persecution and the fear…. I asked if he
had to fight
in Afghanistan, he said no, asked if I knew there had been 24
years of
fighting in Afghanistan, that the Taliban were persecuting people.
He
said that there were many people who did not want to fight, but
that
they had ways of taking people and making them fight.

This
morning he is gone, It is not clear that he’s been caught I don’t
know what
happened, perhaps he might get away.

No one expected this to happen,
I don’t have very much in the way of
analysis right now, all I have is a very
strong sense of the real and
human side of what is happening. But that there
are some people
amongst my friends and the people here who were much braver
and
selfless than I was, that there is a lot of suffering in the
world,
and when it landed on my doorstep, I didn’t know how to deal with
it.

———————————-
And someone posted this
comment in response:

we all share the same anguish – the story of
those who were asked to
help the refugees escape is a mirror to the question
each australian
must ask themselves shall i allow others to suffer when i can
prevent
it. all the protesters did a great job fought for something a lot
of
australians strongly believe in ‘free the refugees’

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24333&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
STATEMENT
BY 16 ARRESTED WOOMERA REFUGEES
FROM FRIDAY 29th MARCH’S
BREAKOUT.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“We
have made the world hell with racism, colours, religionism,
ethnics and so
on. Businesses and wrong diplomacy. ACM is bad,
Australian Government is bad,
Australian people are good. Detention
centre still continues day by day. You
will see what is going on.”

This statement was given to my friend
from the refugees on a piece of
paper. They have told my friend who was
locked up in the same cell
today that “ACM are evil” and that they called
them “the Mafia”. They
all said that they are beaten every day and never get
let outside.
They also said that they are not fed properly. They say that if
they
escape 3 times they get deported, and they said that some of them
will
commit suicide before they get deported.

My friend talked to
the police and saw the police books and said that
47 refugees escaped the
compound of which 37 have been arrested. 10
refugees are still unaccounted
for. 9 protesters have been charged
with harbouring.

In jail my
friends said the refugees danced and sang for them. In
return my friend
rapped a rhyme about refugees to them which they all
danced to.
They thank
us for all our support.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24337&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WOOMERA
LEGAL SUPPORT GROUP PRESS RELEASE
by Mick Lumsden & Sarah Nicholson
8:22pm Sat Mar 30
’02
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Woomera
Legal support group expresses its concern over the
statements and actions of
the Australian Protective Services and the
South Australian Police over the
last two days.

The legal support group is supporting the 16
protestors that have been
charged with Harbouring Escapees under the Criminal
Law Consolidation
Act.

The Woomera Legal support group understands
that the only violence
perpetrated has been initiated by the police. The
police have a lawful
right to use reasonable force to arrest people, but they
have to
accept the moral responsibility for violence they initiate —
they
cannot shift that blame onto non-violent protestors. Again we
are
witnessing breaches of the fundamental right to protest.

We
strongly dispute the police’s assertion that the behaviour of the
protestors
has caused injury to the Asylum Seekers and to themselves.
Reports of what is
occurring inside the detention centre describe
gross injustices. The
detainees themselves have stated that there are
reprisal beatings for those
taken back to the detention centre after
escape. Not only is their detention
a breach of international refugee
and human rights law, but the conditions in
which they are being
detained are inhumane.

We are extremely
concerned about the lack of legal and other support
for the detainees,
particularly those in police custody. The Woomera
Lawyers have already been
refused access to those inside the detention
centre over the long weekend.
The detainees being held by the South
Australian Police have none of the
usual rights accorded to Australian
citizens on arrest.

The Legal
Support Group believes that the actions of the nonviolent
protestors during
this demonstration at Woomera contribute to
destroying the veil of secrecy
and silence that surrounds the
detention centre by publicising and making
transparent the conditions
inside the centre.

We believe the
existence of the detention centre is a disruption to
the peace and security
of the community of Woomera and the rest of
Australia and until it is closed
this situation will continue.

Contact:
Mick Lumsden: 0409 626
669


From the Archives >> Baxter @ Easter, 2003

February 19, 2009

 

 

After Easter at Woomera in 2002 the Government decided to move people to Baxter. The detention centre in Baxter had an extra deterrent for those seeking to break out – electric shock razor wire. So now we had an electric barrier as well as razor wire to keep innocent women and children and men incarcerated. At Woomera, in 2002, human rights activists could get close to the wire, at Baxter the protests were just symbolic as the Darth Varder clothed police with their shields and batons, their horses and their helicopters overhead kept us far away from the detention centre.

 

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

The Baxter protest also witnessed for the first time, police in riot gear pointing machine guns at Australian citizens’ heads. This wasn’t reported in the corporate media. However, we have photos and videos to prove it. The freaky thing was that some of us had helium filled balloons. One accidental bursting of a balloon and we would have seen Sharpeville on Australian soil. Where was the outrage by the media? No where. Quiet as a mouse.

 

The Baxter @ Easter 2003 also witnessed for the first time a close connection with the local indigenous people who supported our Action. Closer connections were made by the various affinity groups which made it more possible for the Flotillas of Hope Action to Nauru happen the following year.

 

Anyway, read the following account as it appeared on the Baxter Watch  website and in the ImaginePeace Update.

 

stavros

 

=======================================================

 

 

A Story from Baxter Detention Centre, Easter, 2003

 

 

The corporate media told people that we had broken through the first barrier, about 3 kilometres from the Concentration Camp after some confrontation with police. Then, according to the corporate media we raced down to the second barrier about 2 kms away from the Concentration Camp where the police had formed a line with mounted police ready to lend a hand in stopping us getting through. Even though we could see the massive presence of the riot squad we, in our enthusiasm for a battle with the police decided to breach the police line. This time our brave riot squad with all their gear stopped us. They stopped us by riding their horses into us and dismantling our tents. So, the heroes of the State warded off a few hundred of us refugee activists determined to fight the Empire. That’s their version and if you don’t believe me check out The Australian’s story. 500 refugee activists vs the 357 police and riot squad and a helicopter surveillance. One cop per protestor along with their weapons of mass intimidation.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Where to begin? In many ways for me the real beginning of the story is on Good Friday night, when we gathered around the Sacred Fire lit by the Elders of the Bungalla people – Harry and Noelene. This is a beginning the corporate media won’t tell you about and I believe that what happened around the Sacred Fire at the Baxter Protest Camp marks a new synergy with refugee and Aboriginal rights movements. The Baxter Convergence when seen in this light shows the deeper convergence that occurred at Easter. Hopecaravan yahoo group’s website logo says: “The denial of rights to anyone is the denial of humanity to all.” We were welcomed to the land that Baxter Concentration Camp is built on by the Aboriginal Elders – Noelene and Harry. As far as I was concerned my presence was legal within Aboriginal Law no matter what Howard and Ruddock say. But before I begin the story with this bigger beginning I will tell you what happened when we arrived at the Western road block.

 

 

Protectors of the Electric Fence

Protectors of the Electric Fence

What really happened? The police allowed us to pass through the first barrier with all of our camping gear and to walk about a kilometre down the hill. As we walked down towards the Concentration Camp we saw police in riot gear making a line. We put down our gear and proceeded to set up camp. No one tried to stop us, so we thought that this was going to be our camp site. The commander of police, with headphone radio contact then made an announcement. He told us all to pack up our gear and return to the top of the hill in 10 minutes or we will be arrested. Many went and pleaded with him to be reasonable, including myself. He wouldn’t budge. The troops were ready to arrest us. Meanwhile from behind us in the hills, like a B grade western movie, there was the calvary of mounted police charging towards our camp site. When the ten minutes were up the riot squad charged into our site and along with the mounted police they took away tents and trampled on peoples’ property. Lucky no one was trampled. There some chafed shins and someone got arrested for carrying a kite. The cops then made us go back up to the hill. Meanwhile, above us, a helicopter choppered away. By the way, I have video footage of all this.day01_28

We walked back up to the hill and here we set up camp. That night (Good Friday) we had a spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire which the Aboriginal Elders had lit especially for our protest. It was the only fire allowed on our camp and whenever we gathered for meetings we gathered around the Sacred Fire. Harry, Elder of the Bungalla people, the people of the local land we camped on, welcomed us as did Noelene. In silence we stood and sat around the Sacred Fire while Noelene and Harry told us their stories and why they supported refugees incarcerated in the Concentration Camps. “Simply because,” Harry said, “Our people experience the same incarceration as the refugees.” They not only felt for the refugees but also totally empathised with their plight because their own people have also suffered the same injustices.

Harry and Noelene told us, as we felt the warmth of the Sacred Fire, that the only way to affect change and help those inside the Concentration Camp was through peaceful and compassionate ways. They told us that to keep in the spirit of the land we had to manifest peacefully. They gave us the blessings of the Bungalla people and its land. I asked permission to record an image of the Sacred Fire, which they gave. HOPE Caravan told the spokes council of the FREEDOM banner, signed by Newcastle people and invited all of the Baxter Convergence people to sign it as well. Noelene and Harry offered to take the FREEDOM banner with all the signatures and well wishes of our protest camp and Newcastle to the refugees in Baxter. This banner was made from a queen sized sheet with the word FREEDOM sewn on in black material in the Farsi language – AZADI. The next day people in the camp signed it at the Sacred Fire and around the Caravan’s camp. On Sunday morning HOPE Caravan gave the banner to Noelene and Harry. I have footage of their words to all of us. They will take our gift of FREEDOM and HOPE to those behind the electric razor wire.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

We decided at that night’s spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire that some of us would go down later that night. We didn’t know how far the cops would let us get to the Concentration Camp but we were determined to get as close as possible so that we could make contact. To make sure that they could hear us some of us brought bongos and maracas, saxophones, drums along with kites and whistles and pots and pans. At around 9PM we met up on top of the hill and began our walk down to the centre. The moon was full and the desert night cool, silhouettes of hills contrasted with the glare of the Concentration Camp lights a couple of kilometres down the gas pipeline.

Throughout the day we noticed the helicopter that flew overhead in circles watching over us. At night the same thing became a one eyed alien creature scouring the night earth with a column of light descending on our tents, our shadows and the Sacred Fire. Like Apocalypse Now, this time in the desert, the chopper chopped the air as we walked down to the centre its cone of light going over and around us. To my right I noticed a young brother flying a kite while walking on the gas pipeline. The landscape and the images of the Darth Vader STAR cops we had already faced brought to mind Star Wars and here was Luke Skywalker flying his kite under the moonlight. He balanced his sprightly steps on the huge pipe line. The orange kite fluttered above him and occasionally I saw the kite’s bird profile against the round moon. This was one of 26 kites we brought with us from Newcastle. The kites were made from DIMIA plastic sheeting that promotes Harmony Day. Newcastle made the kites to fly at Baxter. We transformed DIMIA advertising into Kites of Peace. As Luke flew his kite, one hand holding the string and the other held out to his side for balance the helicopter made another swoop, its searchlight swept over us and the kite glistened in the air. When our moon shadows returned I looked at the hills around me – I could have been on another planet. The detainees at Baxter will never see these hills because they cannot look out. They are only allowed to look up at the sky. They see the same Southern Cross we do but their horizon ends with electric razor wired walls.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

As we got closer to the Concentration Camp we started to chant and play our musical instruments. Our rhythmic chants together with the beats of the drums and the sounds of whistles and sax resonated through the night air – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM and on it went. When we got to the main gates to the Concentration Camp many sat down on the ground and others shoulder to shoulder swayed to the songs we sang. The police stood still in their Darth Vader STAR wars get ups. A couple of us were arrested, one a young woman. Does it take a million dollar Star Wars riot squad to protect an electric razor fence? It seems it does in Australia today when people carrying musical instruments, kites and balloons, banners and flags, their passionate compassion in action voice a dissenting message.- FREE THE REFUGEES! END MANDATORY DETENTION! AZADI !

We went silent for a while to hear a response from those behind the electric wire. The first couple of silent moments between our songs and chants did not reveal anything. Then in one break between AZADI and FREEDOM we heard the faint reply AZADI from behind their walls. It was muffled by the barriers of ACM BUT we had made contact – they heard us and we heard them!

Heart Kite flying high.

Heart Kite flying high.

On the way back we were pushed by a line of visar STAR war cops – on the road they drove a car with full beam lights in our direction slowly. This meant that your peripheral vision was stuffed and this way couldn’t see if a cop in dark is going to nab you. One of us got arrested with his back to the police. All he was doing was sitting on the gas pipe – away from others. On either side of the car the STAR cops were lined up moving in short robotic movements. About a third of the way back to our camp another group ran towards us through the desert from our left. They went to the other side of the Concentration Camp because they had information from inside the camp that the detainees had been moved there. Two fronts, two determined efforts to make contact with the refugees. The robocops chased them and they finally merged with our group uncaught. About half way up the hill we could just hear the Rock On Against Racism (ROAR) Concert. As we got closer the beats and the music got louder.

The next day we met back at the Sacred Fire where HOPE Caravan brought the FREEDOM / AZADI Gift for people to write their messages on. A decision was made to march back down to the Concentration Camp in the morning. Some members of the Caravan remained behind at the camp site. We came to Baxter to fly our kites and to fly our FREEDOM banner.

But that story’s for another time as are the many other stories that are going to be told by all of us who were at Baxter this Easter.

On Sunday we left about 10AM. There were many buses also leaving about 12PM so there would have been very few of the 500 left when the STAR cops raided the camp with their machine guns. I wasn’t there when that happened AND what I know is that we could have all been there. When they pointed their machine guns at the people left at our camp, they pointed it at my head as well. In fact the machine guns were pointed at every Australian’s head.

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

The act of dissent in Australia can now bring machine guns bearing at peoples’ heads for carrying camera tripods, arrest for placing yellow stars on rotting wooden fences and for flying a kite. Australia – where are we going? There were helium balloons at the camp when the STAR War cops raided it carrying machine guns. One tiny little mishap, like a balloon bursting at the most inopportune time, who knows how many of our children would have been massacred by machine gun fire. Would the government then argue “collateral damage done by friendly fire” on its own people! The lack of outrage at such an intemperate use of force speaks volumes about the Culture we are swimming in. It is crystallizing into a Police State and our right to dissent will be associated with terrorist activities. What else can explain the overkill at Baxter?

day03_02

I want to say how proud I am to be associated with everyone of you who were at Baxter and those who supported us. Our passionate compassion carried musical instruments, kites, balloons, songs and chants of freedom as our messages of hope to the detainees. There were 500 of us with 357 of the STAR cops and when you include their helicopter and other weapons of mass intimidation you can see that the equation is not equal. Our protest was a complete success in that we made contact with the refugees imprisoned in the Concentration Camp and we have highlighted the draconian methods that are in place to stop frredom of speech and dissent in Australia. Think about it – a machinegun against a kite.

Then think about the message of peace given to us around the Sacred Fire by the Elders of the Land.

stavros

Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.

Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.


About Journeys and Star Gazing

December 19, 2008

durer-sky-wheel2

Though what is below was written a couple of years ago, now in 2012, I still think the beginning is true even though I walk 10 kms a day. In what way am I starting to walk again? Well, can I say spiritually without sounding phoney?

—————————————————————————————————

Recently I started to walk again, with a limp, after having broken my leg and being immobile for a long time. The physiotherapist told me that a walk of about 1 kilometre per day would be good exercise for me, especially to get my foot, ankle and leg muscles flexible again. She said to treat my walk as a physiotherapy exercise. Since I walk very slowly now without a crutch, I’m starting to become aware of a whole new world which appears in the slow pace I take. I become aware of my breath and the sensation of each step on the ground. As I do this I become aware of a silence within me which makes space and allows the sounds of birds singing , the sensation of the breeze touching my skin, the smell of recently mowed grass to enter.

Of course my “monkey mind” is still climbing and jumping around in the space within my skull but somehow because of the slow walk and the effort to “be” in the moment of the walk makes the monkey appear like a distant shadow puppet. Yes, my walk is a  Zen like exercise and the fall I had which broke my leg was Life – as – Zen – Master, wacking me into a state of mind that may prioritise what is essential in my life.

My walk to the newsagent in the morning is a journey both on the road and its side gutters and beneathe my skin between breaths and sighs of wonder at what is around me.

A journey, for me is going from point A to point B via the whole alphabet of being. The Alpha and Omega. the beginning and the end of a journey is where the snake bites its own tail, a gentle ouraboros.

ouroboros-pergamino

 It all depends on one’s awareness. So, one can make a journey from one’s lounge room and go across the borders marked by a door into a kitchen. It is no different to travelling in time by simply dipping a biscuit in a cup of tea as Proust did in his “Remembrence of Things Past”. A journey can also be a trip across the planet on a boat or a plane, a train or a bus, on foot or a bicycle. It can also be a journey to the Moon or to Mars in a space ship, or a trip to Saturn and Jupiter or Andromeda in one’s mind.

Star Gazing is not only looking up at the night sky and seeing how small we genuinely are in the midst of all these galaxies and stars, pinpricks of Light escaping through Heaven’s cape. It is also seeing into the meaning of those star gazing moments, those moments that coincide with a particular configuration of planets, Sun, Moon and stars. Yes, Star Gazing for me exists in that space between Astronomy and Astrology. I look up into the night heavens and I see the stars above and I wonder why am I here looking and living. My wife got me a telescope for Christmas this year and I hope to be able to take some photos of what I gaze at.

cosmic-clock1

I look at a horoscope ( I also call it a Sky Map) and I see the symbolic language of these same stars.  When I say Stars I also mean the planets and the Sun and Moon. It is an easy shorthand. Star gazing becomes communing….communicating in star language. Astrology for me is a language, a way of communicating with the deeper parts of my and your nature for I believe that we all are ultimately made of star matter. While I look up at the Stars and gaze at the light that departed from its source billions of years ago, I recognise that I gaze at old, old light. The youngest light, including sunlight is only 8 minutes old when it touches my skin, Alpha Centauri light, the closest star to us, is only about 4 years old. Star light has journeyed a long time to arrive through my eyes into me and you.

earth-sun-and-moon

However, strange as it may sound, when I speak of astrology, I’m not really talking about the balls of rock and gas that orbit our Sun – Sol as planets or about the physical stars and galaxies that surround us. The stars and planets I speak of astrologically have nothing to do with those we know astronomically and through a telescope. The only connection astrology has with the astronomical stars is the coincident time of happening. Carl Jung coined a term to explain events that happen with no apparent physical causal connection – synchronicity. This word is made of two Greek words syn – same and chronos – time...synchronicity…things that happen at the same time.  The important addition that Jung makes with this is that the connection between events is subjectively meaningful for the person. I think of a person and I hear a song with the person’s name in it and then almost simultaneously, the person rings me on the phone. This is very meaningful for me because I haven’t seen or heard from this person in a long time. The song, the thinking of the person and the telephone call are not connected in any physical scientifc way, but they do connect in a very meaningful way in my mind and heart. This is synchronicity. Astrology for me is synchronicity written in Sky Script. The physical stars are connected to the stars within my inner universe, my deeper intuitions and feelings that struggle to find a way to speak. The star language of astrology gives these promptings a voice.

alchemical-marriage-galaxy

In “Journeys and Star Gazing” there will be stories that on the surface have nothing to do with star gazing but later posts will show where the star matter is embedded. Other times, there will be lyrics, poems, some quotes I like, pictures I like and just stuff I like. Here you will find stories about various human rights campaigns that I have been involved in, including the Cultural Stomp, 1997, the  Woomera at Easter, 2002 and Baxter at Easter, 2003. There is also an extensive coverage of the Flotillas of Hope Journey to Nauru in 2004, with an additional magico – astrological perspective that not many people involved in the Action were aware of.

In “Journeys and Star Gazing” you may read posts that include both a journey and an astrological reading of the journey. Sometimes, you will come across a life’s moment navigated by the stars or a journey planned by the use of astrology.

All in all, diverse alchemies of serendipity in an ambience of astrological allusion and reference.

Oh yeh, and some fun stuff too ……….

It would be great to hear from you.

stavros

 


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