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New NSW riot police targets dissent

New riot squad in NSW targets dissent

The attack on civil liberties in Australia continues with a new riot squad being established in NSW as part of the Counter Terrorist Co-ordination Command. The difference between dissent and terrorism is becoming increasingly thin.

The Counter-Terrorism Command Centre was established in 2002. According to the official NSW Police website, its mission is ‘to provide a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to acts of terrorism or politically motivated violence…’ Politically motivated violence is the code used for protests.

The Police Public Order and Riot Squad was established on January 1, 2006, according to the January 16 Australian. Deputy Police Commissioner Terry Collins said that the new riot squad would be backed-up by 1200 riot-trained officers.

Although the police like to play up the role of the Macquarie Fields and Redfern riots in the formation of the new riot squad, in reality the announcement that such a squad was being set-up was in response to the anti-globalisation protests against the Forbes business leaders' conference at the Sydney Opera House on August 30.

The day after the protest, NSW Police Minister Carl Scully praised the police response to the Forbes conference protesters, where many protesers were injured, and he endorsed the formation of a full-time state riot squad. One day later, September 1, Police Commissioner Ken Moroney announced the formation of the Public Order and Riot Squad. Obviously, the plans had been set for some time, but Moroney waited till the Forbes’ protest before making the plan public.

The squad is planned to have a core of about 50 riot squad police, backed-up by another 1,200 riot police. The squad will be fully operational for the 2007 APEC Leaders Summit in Sydney in 2007.

The riot squad is led by the Kings Cross police commander, Superintendent Steve Cullen, who was the same officer who directed police security for the Augsut 30 Forbes’ conference.

One danger of the formation of the new riot squad is its possible use of the newly introduced ‘lock-down’ powers, introduced in an emergency sitting of Parliament following the Cronulla riots. These powers would allow police to ban people from entering an area where the riot squad is being used, and this includes journalists. Out of the gaze of the media, serious human rights abuses could occur when the riot squad has been let loose.

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