On Tuesday, 9 August, 4 pro-Palestine activists were arrested in the early hours of the morning. The activists were arrested for breaking un-democratic bail conditions imposed on them after Victorian Police violently attacked a non-violent peaceful BDS protest and arrested 19 non-violent peaceful demonstrators on July 1. Initially, the anti-democratic bail conditions imposed on 11 of the 19 peaceful, non-violent activists prevent them from entering two major shopping centres, including one which has a major train station and medical centres. On July 27 their bail was varied to prohibited them from going within 50 meters of the two Max Brenner stores in the two city centres.
On July 29, more than 350 people attended the biggest pro-BDS action in Australia to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to impose the anti-democratic attack and arrests of Palestine solidarity activists. After hearing a range of speakers from the trade unions and community groups, the peaceful protestors marched through the streets of Melbourne. Two peaceful non-violent sit-ins were held outside of two Max Brenner stores – one in Melbourne Central and one in the QV Centre. The four activists were arrested more than 10 days after the peaceful demonstration for allegedly participating in the non-violent peaceful sit-ins in violation of their bail conditions.
Police persecute Palestine solidarity activists to defend Israeli Apartheid
The Victorian Police and courts went to outrageous lengths to criminalise solidarity activism with Palestine today. For the crime of attending a peaceful demonstration against Max Brenner chocolate store and their support for Apartheid, four activists were snatched from their homes in the early hours of the day, locked in a holding cell, and made to pay a combined total of $16,000 in surety to be allowed to leave.
The four activists were part of the Max Brenner 19, peaceful demonstrators who were savagely attacked by police at a demonstration on the 1st of July. Some weeks after the protest the magistrates court imposed anti-democratic bail conditions on 11 of this 19. Which explicitly denied their right to assembly by prohibiting them on the threat of months of imprisonment from protesting against Max Brenner. This attempt to intimidate the Palestine solidarity campaign in Melbourne, has taken place in the context of a hysterical campaign by Zionist organisations, the Victorian Premier Ted Bailieu, and the Victorian Police, to silence protest calling for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.
Today the courts and the police went out of their way to try to punish these four activists by any means possible, when none have been convicted of any crime. Indeed, no crime has been committed except to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. The four activists were denied their right to phone calls when placed in remand, in an attempt to isolate and demoralise them. It was over 7 hours after their arrest that they were allowed to speak to their lawyers.
Once they were brought before a magistrate for a bail hearing, excessively punitive conditions were placed on their liberty for their alleged offenses. The magistrate chose the harshest possible conditions for bail. For the explicit purpose of preventing them from protesting at or even near Max Brenner. Three were made to pay $2,000 in surety each to be granted bail. One was singled out for far harsher conditions on the basis that she has been a public spokesperson at these demonstrations. For the crime of speaking their mind, they were made to pay $2,000 in surety plus another $8,000 the following week. A sum of money that is many times the maximum sentence for her alleged offense.
Once all four were granted bail on these conditions, they were further punished by deliberately delaying their release. Friends of the detainees have been made to wait over 5 hours to pay the surety for their release. Despite people being present at 5pm to pay for their release, it was 9:30pm before a single detainee was let out. At the time of writing this report only 2 had been released.
It appears that in the eyes of the courts, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinians struggle for freedom is a heinous crime, while Max Brenner’s support for genocide and occupation is not.