Police preparing for protesters at next month’s G20 Leaders Summit will benefit from the South Brisbane setting, a Griffith University researcher says.
Associate Professor Janet Ransley believes the appointed precinct, where high-level meetings will happen, is more controllable and, therefore, a better site than was the case for the London and Toronto summits which were marred by violent clashes and arrests.
“While it is relatively easy for authorities to shut down and control the space, the access points in South Brisbane are good in that they also allow for safe dispersal. The hotels are relatively close too. In terms of the set-up, the planning is good,” she said.
“QPS and intelligence agencies will have carried out detailed analysis of who will be protesting and are likely to have met with potential protest groups in advance, to ensure these groups have an avenue for peaceful protest.”
The research investigates the nature of police interventions, drawing comparisons with other major events like international sporting occasions and musical festivals.
“We suspect different approaches may be at work, but our research is not complete. Police can exercise discretion when deciding whether to make arrests. How they exercise this discretion is subject to the context, our study shows.
“The welfare-oriented approach they might take at an event like Schoolies is not likely to be applied with a drunk at a footy game. The policing of drugs at a musical festival will be different from the policing of drugs at Fortitude Valley at the weekend.
“The nature of a protest and the type of group protesting can also influence how police exercise discretion,” Associate Professor Ransley, head of Griffith’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said.
At the London summit, police responded to aggressive protests with baton charges and arrests, with the death of a protester casting a dark shadow on the event. In Toronto the following year, more than 1100 people were arrested as a police force of 10,000 severely constricted movement.
“The eyes of the world will be on our police in Brisbane this year and I think we can expect to see an inclination to avoid violent conflict. They are likely to be careful about stepping over the mark.
“Queensland police has a use-of-force protocol and I expect this would be a critical part of their training ahead of the G20.”
Associate Professor Ransley is cautious about new legislation introduced in Queensland ahead of the G20 Summit that gives police extensive powers and which will see extensive restrictions enforced in the city of Brisbane during the weekend of November 14-16.
“For example it will be an offence to carry eggs in the restricted area or anything that could be regarded as a weapon, for example a pen. The new laws are vague and imprecise. Civil libertarians have been critical of the legislation and with some justification.”