On May 1, 19 Melbourne activists will be put on trial for their political activity. In a precedent-setting case, these pro-Palestine activists will be fighting a variety of charges designed to criminalize dissent in Premier Ted Baillieu’s state of Victoria and to intimidate supporters of Palestine in Australia.
On July 1, 2011, Victoria police attacked a peaceful demonstration in Melbourne’s central business district. In one of the largest political arrests in a decade, 19 activists were detained during a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) action against the Max Brenner store. The chocolate shop is owned by Israeli conglomerate, the Strauss Group, a company that provides “care rations” for the Israeli military, including the Golani and the Givati brigades.
These were two of the key Israeli military brigades involved in Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians. In more recent times, the Golani brigade has been noted for its enforcement of Israeli colonization of Palestinian Hebron in the West Bank.
After a series of peaceful demonstrations against Max Brenner, the July 1 action was kettled by police, and then activists were individually targeted in an unprovoked attack. The police used pressure point tactics on some of the demonstrators; others reported bruising and rough treatment. One woman had her shoulder dislocated.
I was asked by some of the key activists involved in the case to record a message of solidarity: