Monday, August 1, 2011

Opposing police intimidation, pro-Palestine supporters in Melbourne call for the boycott of Israel

Dear friends,
Please find below a video I have put together from the highly successful BDS action in Melbourne on July 29.

Between 300 -400 people participated in the action against Max Brenner Chocolate, an Israeli company which is owned by the Strauss Group, one of Israel’s biggest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasis its support for the Israeli military. Strauss boasts that it supports both the Golani and Givati Brigades of the Israeli military, providing them with care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games. Both of these brigades were heavily involved in Israel's 2008/2009 military assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in more than 1300 Palestinians being killed, the majority civilian, including approximately 350 children.

The atmosphere at the July 29 action was fantastic, with lots of new people attending. According to an “eyewitness” report published by the Zionist media in Australia, “protesting were Socialists, Muslim Arab community members including, Palestinians, Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians and a group of multicultural activists”.

As many of you will be aware our last peaceful BDS action against Max Brenner on July 1 was violently attacked by the Victorian Police, with at least one non-violent protestor being choked unconscious by the police as he was dragged by them out of the peaceful demonstration. Police arrested 19 people charging them with “trespass” (in a public place) and “besetting”.

Video of the police attack on the peaceful demonstration can be seen here and here.
The police attack on the July 1 action marked a clear escalation in Victorian police violence against pro-Palestinian demonstrators. This reasons for this escalation was made abundantly clear on July 27 at a bail variation hearing for 11 of the 19 who were arrested.

At the court hearing, the police made it clear that their attack on peaceful demonstration came only after discussions with Zionist groups, the Victorian government, shopping centre management and the state and national management of Max Brenner. A lot of the police testimony revolved around the fact that the protests were well organised and coordinated (and therefore effective, although they didn’t use the word “effective”). They made it clear that their main aim in arresting people was to disrupt the ability of pro-Palestine solidarity activists to organise.

Police stated during the hearing that “the protestors had their own way” for too long and a “decision [was] made to draw a line in the sand and make arrests”. The Victorian Police also admitted that police infiltrators had been sent to pro-Palestine solidarity meetings in order to monitor the activity of BDS/Palestine activists.

However, in the wake of the police attack, Pro-Palestine/BDS activists resolved not to be intimidated by the police and to continue to organise our non-violent peaceful actions highlighting the complicity of companies like Max Brenner in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.

After hearing a range of speakers at the State Library, pro-Palestine protestors took to the streets and marched through Melbourne city. They then entered Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and held a peaceful a half hour sit-in outside the Max Brenner located there. The protestors then proceeded peacefully to the Queen Victoria Shopping Centre and held another half hour sit-in outside of Max Brenner in the QVB.

Although the Victorian Police had deployed a large number of police officers and had once again hidden Police Prison trucks in the loading docks of the QV shopping centre, no police attacks on the peaceful demonstration occurred (unlike on July 1) and the non-violent peaceful protest proceeded unhindered (On July 1, the police had established a mobile processing unit in the QV loading docks and had brought in a number of prison transport trucks to hold arrest protestors).

The next BDS action in Melbourne will be held on September 9. On September 5, those arrested will appear in court and will plead not-guilty to the charges laid against them.

For more information on the Defence Campaign in support of the “Boycott-Israel19” please visit:

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