Sydney prepares for Forbes Conference and 30A protest

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sydney is today preparing for the Forbes Global CEO Conference and 30A Protest. A major police operation is occurring in the vicinity of the Sydney Opera House, where the conference is scheduled to occur. The Opera House forecourt has been closed to the public, and barricades have been set up down Maquarie St and across the Botanic Gardens.

Barricades surround the Opera House, preventing public access to the forecourt

Police checkpoints have been set up on Maquarie St and the Circular Quay walk to control access to the Opera House. Police dogs are patrolling the area.

At 8am this morning Customs Square, where the 30A protest is planning to assemble, was as normal for a Tuesday, with no indication of preparations by activists. The police have 1,000 officers attending, and have said that they are preparing for 10,000 protestors.

Sharron Burrows, leader of the ACTU, has criticised the conference, saying that it celebrates corporate greed at the expense of workers.

"As the global economy grows we should have cause for celebration for the advancement that this should deliver for workers and their families all over the world, but the reality is that corporate greed is driving profit share at the expense of wages, safe workplaces, conditions and entitlements for workers," she said.

Police crackdown

Mr Collins said that police will respond promptly to any trouble. He has also stated that schoolchildren who attended the protest will not be immune.

"We will arrest people regardless of age in regard to if they are [unlawful] in their protest," he said.

"I make no apology for the fact that if people are breaking the law and are disrupting the conference, we will deal with it, we will arrest people and deal with them appropriately," he added.

Acting Police Commissioner accuses activist groups of 'training to disrupt'

New South Wales Acting Police Commissioner, Terry Collins, on Monday accused activist groups of training their members to cause disruptions during protests. He was speaking in reference to the protests planned to coincide this week with the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Sydney Opera House.

"Activist groups by their very nature are actually trained to go about to disrupt and certainly undermine any attempts by police or any other security forces to actually deal with protest groups," Mr Collins said.

"I make no apology for the fact that, if people are breaking the law and are disrupting the conference, we will deal with it and we will arrest people," he added.

A spokesman for the 30A Network, Bruce Knobloch, has labelled the claims as ridiculous.

"The assistant commissioner has been very pig headed," he said.

"The only training I know about is something called non-violent direct action. This is exactly what it says: non-violent," he added.

Mr Knoblock says that the 30A network has not attempted to hide its plans, and has made every attempt to work with the police.

"The 30A network has no secrets, we have been very open about our intentions: to have a carnival protest. It's amazing the degree of paranoia going on at the heads of the NSW Police Force. We are a bunch of community activists and concerned citizens who have a right to protest against the war profiteers and free-market freaks," he said.

The comment by the Acting Police Commissioner seem to be in contrast to previous statements from the 30A Network, who said in a press release last week that they are hoping for a peaceful, fun protest.

"We want a safe community action showing that people in Sydney oppose Howard¹s plan for a US-style wages system, the war in Iraq and his kow-towing to global corporate chiefs. We pose no threat to the Opera House or the millionaire delegates, or to other users of east Circular Quay," the press release said.

Access to the Opera House is tightly controlled

The Herald Sun, a Melbourne newspaper, is reporting that "Radical protesters from Melbourne will send their most 'hard-core' activists to Sydney to protest outside a meeting of the world's top business leaders." The paper is reporting that "leftists" are unable to guarantee that they will obey police exclusion zones.

Socialist Party national organiser Anthony Main said that protestors would not provoke violence, however he suggested that the police may act violently.

"Given the new era of global terrorism and so forth, we wouldn't be surprised if they (police) flexed their muscles," he said.

The 30A Network is a loose association of peace and global justice groups and trade unions. The protest hopes to draw attention to a wide variety of issues, including war, corporate greed, and neoliberalism.

"The protest is against free-market madness. The conference attendees are people who believe that the free-market can solve all of our problems, e.g privatisation, including things such as water. One of the conference attendees works for a private water company," Mr Knobloch said.

Sources

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