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Greens councillor says he was 'singled out' by police during asylum arrest

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The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has been accused of allowing politics to guide its operational decisions, after a weekend asylum seeker protest that resulted in a Brisbane councillor being charged.

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Greens councillor Jonathan Sri said he was singled out for arrest at a Brisbane protest on Saturday.

“It’s very clear that the Queensland Police Service is making political decisions about what kinds of issues they investigate and prioritise resources towards,” Cr Sri said.

He was arrested after taking part in protest against the detention of asylum seekers at an apartment complex in Kangaroo Point and later charged with contravening the direction of a police officer.

In a written statement, Cr Sri said: “Out of the hundreds of people who participated in the authorised peaceful assembly, I was the only one to be charged with an offence on Saturday.”

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was singled out.

“Police were using violent force in a manner that escalated rather than defused the situation.

“My firm view is that the police presence on the ground actually increased the danger to members of the public.”

Protesters have been campaigning for the release of asylum seekers who are being housed at Kangaroo Point and had set up tents and marquees on the footpath.

Yesterday Police Inspector Tony Ridge said the structures were taken down.

“The protesters have set up camp for a number of days and were using it as a base to blockade the site,” he said.

“They were using human shields to block traffic entering and leaving the site and also harassing employees that also worked here at the centre.

“On Saturday there was a large protest, where they had the main street blocked for several hours.

“After what we saw on Saturday night, these situations can become quite volatile and emotional, if we don’t address them properly. So the number of police here today [Monday] are for everyone’s safety.”

‘Officer singled me out’

Protest organiser Dane de Leon was arrested on Sunday for failing to comply with a move-on direction.

Sri said De Leon’s arrest “seemed to constitute a deliberate misuse of move-on powers to suppress peaceful assemblies”.

“In a context where First Nations people and other people of colour have been advocating for years regarding police violence and deaths in custody, and the Black Lives Matter movement has specifically raised concerns about Queensland police move-on powers, the circumstances of mine and Dane’s arrests highlight that there are underlying structural problems with the police force as an institution,” he said.

Sri also said several protesters were injured “due to rough police treatment”.

He said he complied with police direction to leave the roadway during the protest and was confused when later arrested.

“We were preparing to leave the area when an angry and aggressive officer singled me out and arrested me without further warning,” Sri said.

“The police have clearly used this bail condition to prevent me from attending and supporting protests calling for the refugees to be freed.

“I intend to fight this charge, and the undemocratic bail conditions on human rights grounds, not simply for my own sake, but because these attacks on the right to peacefully gather in public spaces must be stopped.”

QPS told the ABC it could not comment on the nature of Sri and De Leon’s arrests and the events leading up to them.

Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram yesterday said he was “concerned by the actions of some protesters”.

“The individuals residing in the alternative places of detention in Brisbane and Melbourne were brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. They are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG or return to their home country,” he said in a statement.

“In line with Australian government policy, no one under regional processing arrangements will be resettled in Australia.”

– ABC / Jessica Rendall

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