The media has framed it as violent but the tent embassy protest was basically peaceful. It’s this gross distortion – and the heavy-handed response of the AFP – that warrant criticism, writes Ben Eltham
Ben asks whether the protesters were really violent:
Despite no arrests being made, no physical harm coming to any of the guests of the ceremony, indeed, no real threat to the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition at all, through lazy reporting and the distorting lens of the television footage, the protests have been reported as though a group of violent protesters took Australia’s two most senior politicians hostage.
It hasn’t taken long for the usual suspects to rear their heads and issue forth with pompous outrage.
“The Aboriginal tent embassy has never engendered public respect,” thundered News Limited’s David Penberthy. “It has never done anything to bring black and white Australia together.” Penberthy also made wild claims about an “illegal assortment of galvanised humpies” and an “unprecedented outburst of violence that saw our Prime Minister being dragged along the ground and our Opposition Leader cowering behind a riot shield.”
The Herald-Sun’s Andrew Bolt went one step further, calling the protest a “riot”, writing of “Gillard, fear on her face, being monstered” and calling the end of the reconciliation movement. “It’s just too dangerous,” he averred.
It’s easy to see why Indigenous leaders such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda were so exasperated by the events yesterday, and the inevitable backlash they will provoke. “An aggressive, divisive and frightening protest such as this, has no place in debates about the affairs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or in any circumstances,” he has been reported as saying, and it is true that the protest will not advance the cause of reconciliation.
But Tent Embassy spokesman Pal Coe made a point largely lost in the media coverage today, which is that Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda don’t speak for those involved, much less for Aboriginal Australia as a whole. “You cannot work a peaceful way when governments rely upon certain Aboriginal people to justify a position, a political position, a policy position that they take and they conveniently choose to ignore the rest of Aboriginal people because they have one or two convenient spokespeople,” he told the ABC’s George Roberts.
The original article can be found in New Matilda here
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