Protests continue at Baxter detention centre

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Protesters at Baxter
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Three and maybe four protesters were arrested as demonstrations entered their second day at the Baxter detention centre in the South Australian desert. The protesters were arrested trying to get closer to the faculty. Along with hundreds of other protesters, they marched to the back of the centre but were met by police in riot gear as well as mounted police.

Two activists from Brisbane were arrested in the action, while a third person, who wished not to be identified, was also arrested. Protesters report that a fourth person appears to be missing.

An estimated 400 protesters have been camping around four kilometres from the centre over the Easter weekend, to highlight the Australian Government's policy of mandatory detention. Police have been using helicopters to watch the protesters as they have marched from their campsite to the centre.

More than 200 police charged at protesters as they marched toward the centre. The protesters had formed a tight group and were slowly marching towards the centre. One protester received a minor arm injury during the clash.

"I think it was quite over the top," said protester Mark Goudkamp. "I mean it was pretty clear [by] the way that we were marching in very slowly, very packed as a united group that we didn't pose any threat to the security of the centre on the inside."

"Everyone was banded together and people at the front knocked down the fences and we moved forces past the barrier and down to the detention centre,” said Kate, a protester from Brisbane.

“We pushed forward and got quite a fair way into the space. The cops rode horses to try to ward us off and generally tried to intimidate us. I was scared, but I felt safe within the group,” she said.

Police have said that they will charge several protesters over damage estimated at several hundred Australian dollars caused during last night's demonstration. The damage is mainly political graffiti and minor damage to a wooden fence just outside the detention centre. One protester said that despite the threat of prosecution he would continue such actions. "I don't want trouble but... we have nothing but our hands," he said.

"With our hands and with our voices we are going to free the refugees. If the property is being used unjustly, as it is in this case, I think it is the right of every right-thinking person to damage that property to free those held unjustly as the refugees are in Baxter."

However Mark Goudkamp said that this was a minority view. "[The property damage] was a very, very small incident amongst everything else that happened. Of course [police] are going to try to focus in on that to portray it in whatever negative light they can to try to justify their over-the-top presence here," he said.

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