Almost three years after the protests against the Melbourne meeting of the Group of 20 nations, Sunil Menon, Timothy Davis-Frank and Sina Brown-Davis have had some major victories against the Crown.
At the time of printing, the three activists are still awaiting sentencing and there are still some charges pending, but two separate juries found the three not guilty of the most serious charges they faced. This included the charge of riot against Brown-Davis and aggravated burglary charges against both Menon and Davis-Frank.
These victories mark the culmination of a long and harrowing legal process. In the wake of the demonstrations, which lasted for a week, the Victorian Police Force established “Task Force Salver”. Salver was given huge resources to arrest and prosecute those involved in the demonstrations. This was a blatant attack on the right of activists to organise protests, targeted particularly in the lead up to the APEC conferences held in Sydney a year after the G20 demonstrations. Arrests spanned three states and continued for over a year, with up to 50 people arrested in total.
Initially, there was little public opposition to the arrests. Much of the left either publicly denounced those who were arrested or lacked the confidence to speak up in the face of harsh police repression. Eventually there were some significant attempts to build a campaign against the arrests, including approaching key trade unions. Thousands of dollars were raised to pay fines and lawyers.
Unfortunately, these efforts were undermined by the enormous legal and financial pressures faced by the majority of those arrested. Most of those charged pled guilty to various offences, including the serious charge of riot, which has never been proven against a protester when it has proceeded to trial. The success that Menon, Davis-Frank and Brown-Davis had in defending their actions in front of juries vindicates the campaign that they have waged for the right to protest free of recrimination.
By Ernest Price