Up to 18 arrested, police injured in APEC rally

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Police constructing a security perimeter at the rally

An anti-APEC rally through the streets of Sydney has attracted around 5000 demonstrators, with up to 18 arrests and two police injured. In the days leading up to the rally, police had warned that the demonstration could attract up to 20,000 people and turn into a full scale riot, however these fears were not realised.

The mostly peaceful demonstration marched from Sydney's Town Hall to Hyde Park where they were greeted with a carnival atmosphere. The demonstrators protested against the 2003 Iraq invasion, climate change, workers' rights and globalisation with many blowing whistles, yelling chants and beating drums.

While reports in the media vary, up to 18 people were arrested when they turned violent. Two police officers were injured, one when hit by an iron bar and another when he was hit with a dart. Those arrested have been charged with offences ranging from assaulting police, hindering police, resisting arrest, offensive conduct and breaching a secure area.

Despite the arrests, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione praised the conduct of the majority of protesters. Mr Scipione credited the huge numbers of police and poor weather for the successful outcome of the rally.

"It certainly caused numbers to dwindle, in fact it surely caused numbers not to turn up," he said.

"But more importantly, I think it was the combination of the show of force, the police were out there in big numbers, and we don't apologise for that.

"We always indicated that we would be there, in sufficient numbers to be able to act swiftly against those that broke the law.

"So was that overkill? I don't think so."

Security surrounding the APEC summit is the tightest ever seen in Australia with a 5 km fence restricting access to Northern parts of Sydney's CBD, overflights by airforce jets, police on jet skis, snipers, riot squad members and special laws to crack down on security during the summit.

There have been complaints about the conduct of police which are alleged to of misused special search powers which only apply to the fenced zone surrounding APEC facilities and of heavy-handedness by police. Several protesters claimed that Sydney had been turned into a "police state" as a result of the security measures. Commissioner Scipione said "all allegations of police misconduct would be investigated".

A second protest, held in Belmore Park attracted around 1,000 people from Vietnamese and Tibetian backgrounds protested against Chinese President Hu Jinato's human rights record. Organiser of the protest, Tenpa Dugdak said Australian Prime Minister John Howard should make human rights in China an APEC issue.

"It's so important - this meeting that happened, 21 leaders - great, but [don't] just discuss about trade, discuss about human rights, environmental problems that can really impact on a global scale," he said.

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