Institutionalised sexual assault and the chipping away of our democratic rights: Today in #OMEL vs #MCC

Today, December 6th, 2011, members of the Victoria Police and the Melbourne City Council used a knife to strip a young woman down to her underwear in the Flagstaff Gardens.

This is Sara. She was wearing a tent:

(photo taken Monday December 5, originally from

The City of Melbourne apparently decided that wearing a tent was against the by-laws. The by-laws of what, I don’t know, but that’s what they decided. That’s when this happened:
(trigger warning for sexual assault)

Sarah was surrounded by police, and council workers proceeded to forcibly remove the tent she was wearing, by cutting it away from her body using a knife. She was on the grass in tears, clad only in her underwear. Police and council workers then walked away, leaving her there, making no attempt to care for her safety and wellbeing.

This is troubling on a couple of fronts:

1. That the City of Melbourne have apparently declared themselves arbiters of what is and isn’t clothing.

2. That the Victoria Police now have the power to strip naked anyone who is wearing anything that the City of Melbourne deem to not be clothing.

3. That a young woman was physically and sexually assaulted by both male AND female employees of the State today.

Institutionalised sexism and misogyny is nothing new. I should be surprised, but I am not. The scales fell from my eyes long ago, and, as they say, what has been seen can never be unseen. I know that our police and military are inherently sexist organisations, which is why I don’t feel surprised or shocked by the women who took part in this assault against one of their sisters.

I could talk about the ways in which the reader comments at the Herald Sun reflect and reinforce the rape culture we live in.

Jack of Clematis Posted at 1:26 PM Today

Stupid woman, you get what you deserve. Go out & do some work instead of wasting police time. I have absolutely no sympathy for you.

But I don’t have to. The comments you’ll read if you click that link describe the rape culture far better than I ever could.

What is most frightening about this, to me, is that the City of Melbourne have used the by-law about not having “structures” in the park, to direct the police to remove a tent from a young woman whilst it is being worn as clothing. There is not, as far as I know, any law that defines what clothing is. Therefore, ANYTHING can be worn as clothing. Even a tent.

Evening daily street press MX said this afternoon:

Police told Occupy Melbourne demonstrators in the gardens they could face arrest if found to be wearing their birthday suits inside their tents.

City of Melbourne spokeswoman Beck Angel clarified:

It’s a fact that police are saying that they’ll arrest people if they’re naked in a public place.

Hear that, people of Melbourne! You CAN be stripped down to your underwear if you’re wearing something that the City of Melbourne deems to not be clothing, and you CAN be arrested if you’re naked under that item.

We are all at risk of this. I have seen some pretty shabbily dressed people in the city, people who are —the horror— naked underneath their poor sartorial choices. Badly dressed people, going about naked in public? Quick, call the Victoria Police!!

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights reads:

15. Freedom of expression

(1) Every person has the right to hold an opinion without interference.

(2) Every person has the right to freedom of expression which includes the
freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,
whether within or outside Victoria and whether-

   (a)  orally; or

   (b)  in writing; or

   (c)  in print; or

   (d)  by way of art; or

   (e)  in another medium chosen by him or her.

(3) Special duties and responsibilities are attached to the right of freedom
of expression and the right may be subject to lawful restrictions reasonably

   (a)  to respect the rights and reputation of other persons; or

   (b)  for the protection of national security, public order, public health
        or public morality.

As far as I can see, wearing a tent as clothing in no way denies the rights or reputation of other persons, or threatens national security, public order, public health, or public morality.

Our rights are slowly being chipped away at, and we’re too doped up on reality TV and shopping centres to notice. We won’t notice that our rights are disappearing until they’re gone, and by then it will be too late.

Get outraged, people of Melbourne. These are your rights that Occupy Melbourne is fighting to protect: your right to peaceably assemble. Your right to express ideas and opinions in any medium you choose. Your right to wear what you please. Your right not to be stripped naked in public by the Victoria Police.

Peter Ryan, Minister for Police and Emergency Services Victoria:

File a complaint with the Victoria Police:

The Office of the Lord Mayor: 
The Right Honorable the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle
Phone: (03) 9658 9658
Fax: (03) 9654 2628

The Office of Police Integrity
Phone (03) 8635 6188 (9am-5pm)
Toll Free: 1800 818 378
TTY: (03) 8624 6311
Interpreter: 131 450
Fax: 038635 6185
DX Mail: 210004
Address: Level 3, South Tower. 459 Collins St, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000

And come to Occupy Melbourne! We are lovely, and our TentMonsters are very friendly!



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