[ 22. Sep 2010 ]

Solidarity actions with the Villawood detainees

Roof protest in Villawood detention centre:

This is one reportback about a series of actions that took place in various parts of Sydney on 21. September 2010 in solidarity with the detainees at Villawood detention center - who were occupying the roof there in an act of defiance at their own incarceration and out of respect for Josefa Rauluni who had committed suicide there the day before.


In the afternoon a group occupied the foyer of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC) and locked themselves to the front counter. This action was undertaken with the direct purpose that it could affect the outcome of the protest taken by detainees at Villawood who were saying they would be forced to jump from the roof if no-one from DIC would speak to them regarding their cases. By occupying and refusing to leave the DIC office we intended to apply some more force upon these faceless officials to actually respond to the desperation of those occupying the roof.

The action was also taken because it had become clear that the militancy of those incarcerated within these detention centers was far outstripping that of anyone outside. We hoped to raise the level of solidarity with those inside beyond passively pleading to some higher authority to be 'more humane'.

After gaining entry and occupying, the group asserted they would not leave until things were sorted out on the roof at Villawood. Management at DIC refused to accept any responsibility for the situation there, typically trying to pass the buck like the faceless bureaucrats they are. Eventually they expectedly passed the buck right on to the police, who were happy to threaten all with arrest.

Inspite of the intimidation tactics of the police, stalling tactics allowed the protesters to stay in a fair bit longer. All the while, we were in contact with those on the roof at Villawood, expressing our solidarity and finding out how they thought negotiations were going. By the time police rescue arrived to cut free those locked on at DIC it was becoming clear that there was a chance of a resolution out at Villawood that was at least satifactory enough to make the detainees on the roof not jump off.

By this point however, the police were determined to harass, intimidate and make arrests and so 2 of the protesters inside DIC were arrested and held for a number of hours and charged with trespass. A number of people gathered outside the police station where those arrested were being held in an act of defiance and solidarity. Due to further police provocation and harassment a further arrest was made at this stage.

In solidarity with all those incarcerated in prisons, detention centers or whatever name they are given we scream...
"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons."

The Villawood detainees that had occupied the roof eventually came off not because of any discussions with the pathetic officials from the Immigration Department, but because of some significant, but only intermediary assurances from UNHCR.

It is also worth pointing out there were 2 other equally significant actions undertaken in solidarity with those on the roof today. One involved a few hundred people heading out to Villawood so that they could be visible and heard by detainees in a strong and direct show of support. The other was the taking over of a public square in Newtown by 30 or so people who hung banners and handed out flyers during peak hour.

The following is a text that was being distributed by those who were involved in the occupation at DIC...

Solidarity with Villawood Detainees

"It has come to this because we have seen life lost and we believe we have to do this in order to protect our lives" - detainees in Villawood

Early yesterday morning, Josefa Rauluni committed suicide in Villawood detention center. He was to be deported that day. This death rests in the hands of Australia's paranoid and racist border policy.

Other detainees immediately responded to show respect for Josefa and express their anger at their own detention. 11 people have occupied the roof of Villawood and many more have been on hunger strike for over 20 hours.

The events of yesterday demonstrate the desperate situation in the detention centres and the brutality that underpins border control. Deportations and invisible queues have claimed more lives than we will ever know. The experience of living under this oppression cannot be measured.

The rooftop protest of several detainees is part of a growing militancy amongst those incarcerated in detention centres. In the past months we've seen hunger strikes, breakouts, roof occupations and self harm. The present protest in Villawood is an expression of rage by people whose control over their own lives has been taken away by the Australian Government. It acutely expresses how fortress Australia takes lives.

Yesterday there were protests on both sides of the fences in Villawood. We must continue to take action in solidarity with the struggles occurring from within the detention centres. Our actions must reflect the urgency of the situation as the government amps up its racist, anti-migrant rhetoric and implements harsher policies that cost people's lives.

We struggle against the policing of peoples movement and micro-control of peoples lives at the borders (and in detention) not because of humanitarian concern, but because their struggle is also ours. We have more in common with these people than with the bosses and the politicians who make the decisions that affect all our lives.

We struggle against all borders because no death as a result of border protection brings us more freedom.

We tear down all cages because peoples' desire to move will never be caged.

Article published first on 22. Sep 2010 @ ::