2 Aug. 2007

APEC cometh

Over the last few years there has been a general tendency observed for the NSW Police to become more aggressive in policing protests – and this is from an already aggressive base. Horses have been used against protesters and arrests made even when protestors were peaceful and not causing obstructions. All the evidence suggests a massive, aggressive police attack on protesters is being planned for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [sic] (APEC) meeting in Sydney next month. The evidence I speak of is the aforementioned increasing tendency of the police to break up peaceful protests with force, and the political value of doing so on this occasion. APEC will have unprecedented, and quite unwarranted, security for an event in Australia. The City of Sydney will effectively be closed down for the weekend. This will clearly impact negatively, if not too crucially, on the majority of Sydneysiders. Enough to piss people off, enough to reflect negatively on the power and privilege of the international elite who run their lives. The answer? Make damn sure that you deflect attention, and produce something that retrospectively justifies all the bullshit: in other words produce a scapegoat. There's a ready-made scapegoat in the form of protesters. Some protest group or other is bound to do something that serves as a pretext for a police attack, and if not, who cares? The important thing is that the police attack will translate to 'scenes of violence' that can be played on the news and thus legitimise the whole expense and inconvenience to the taxpayer.

It's difficult to know how the left should deal with this. The most obvious option I think is to refuse to protest. This would only work if everyone on the left agreed to it, however, but I think it makes sense, on the principle that direct action doesn't work unless it does something unpredicted, and summit protests have become entirely predictable, and thus containable. Still, this is somewhat 'unrealistic' in that left groups will not decline to protest, although they have all been playing APEC down to some extent. The reason I suspect they will not decline is moreover a fairly good one, namely that to yield to intimidation provides a victory to the government of sorts. So ultimately, I think we're just in for a kicking. My advice to protesters would be to try to do something unexpected.