Police have dropped charges against eight Refugee Action Collective Vic (RAC) activists who were fined for taking part in a car cavalcade on Good Friday 2020.
Refugee supporters had formed a COVID-safe motorcade to show support for Medevac refugees held inside the Mantra Hotel in the northern Melbourne suburb of Preston.
RAC spokesperson Lucy Honan said, “These fines should never have been imposed in the first place. They were part of a draconian and authoritarian reaction to the pandemic that saw the quashing of protest and dissent.
“Refugee supporters argued consistently that the health and wellbeing of refugees in detention could not be ignored until the pandemic was over.
“Our protests, including the cavalcade, were always COVID-safe. And our campaign was justified, with the Morrison government eventually freeing all refugees from hotel detention.
“Our only ‘crime’ was to show solidarity with the refugees. It’s a disgrace that the fines were imposed and that it’s taken three and a half years for the police to drop the charges. But today we stand vindicated.”
Honan said the police had charged about 30 people with not having a reasonable excuse to be outside the hotel even though the refugees were saying they were in urgent need of community support. Some activists had paid their fines while others were put on diversion orders with no fines after guilty pleas.
She added, “There is a growing trend by governments across Australia to attack the right to protest and to stand up for solidarity and human rights.
“Our victory today shows that protest is legitimate and necessary. The shocking moves by the Albanese government to undermine the High Court’s ruling to abolish indefinite detention is just the latest indication that Labor wants to keep every facet of the Liberals’ inhuman anti-refugee policies in place.
“RAC will continue to be on the streets arguing for permanent visas for the Medevac refugees and for all victims of Australia’s cruel border control policies.”
For background on the case, visit https://rac-vic.org/defend-the-right-to-protest-free-the-refugees/
Organisations that backed the campaign to drop the charges included:
- Maritime Union of Australia
- United Workers Union
- Australian Education Union Victoria Branch
- Health and Community Services Union
- CFMEU Construction & General Division VIC/TAS Branch
- NTEU Victorian Division
- ETU Queensland and NT Branch
- Ballarat Regional Trades and Labour Council
- RMIT University NTEU branch committee
- Federation University NTEU branch committee
- The Victorian Greens
- Tamil Refugee Council