Video of direct action at Broadmeadows Detention Centre: Detainees escape, activists capsicum sprayed and arrested

The protest organized by the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria at the Broadmeadows Detention Centre currently houses 140 young asylum seekers from the ages of 13-18. The days event included a march and speakers attended by around 300 people but also witnessed some dramatic incidents of direct action and police repression which can be seen in the Youtube clip below.

Firstly three teenage asylum seekers detainees managed to escape to join the solidarity protest in the detention centre forecourt. One of the boys cut himself on the barb wire fence in the process and collapsed seemingly in shock before being given some basic first aid after coming too. After negotiation with the police the three boys eventually agreed to return to the centre voluntarily.

Secondly, a number of activists were sprayed in the fence with capsicum spray. The video below clearly shows one activist being sprayed from close contact in the face whilst locked onto the gate. This was a disgusting case of police repression and seen in conjunction with the use of tear gas and synthetic bullets on Christmas Island recently how the imposition of mandatory detention is eroding the civil liberties of all Australian’s not just asylum seekers.

Lastly, towards the end of the rally after many one activist Izzy Brown in an act of solidarity climbed over the barbed wire perimeter fence to break into the centre. She was quickly arrested and charged with “riotous behaviour”.

The rally itself and the days dramatic events have received virtually zero mainstream press coverage. According to Melbourne protests blog, only one mainstream camera crew turned up on the day and quicly left. A google news search today reveals no internet coverage at all from the mainstream press. However the inspiring acts of direct action by both detainees and solidarity protestors at Broadmeadows reflects the intensifying of the movement against mandatory detention both within and outside the centres around Australia. Easter with rallies and a convergence on Curtin Detention Centre will no doubt see a further escalation of the process.

Images by Melbourne Protest Blog



The Victorian police show once more what a bunch of thugs they are. Deploying a weapon like capsicum spray on unarmed, non-violent protesters shows them up for the cowardly bullies they are. When are we going to rein in these thugs? I suppose the protesters should have been thankful the mighty Victorian men and women in blue didn't shoot them.

Regarding mainstream media coverage: I have since been told that the ABC 7pm news last night carried a largely sympathetic report of the rally, although as noted on Melbourne Protests, the camera crew left before the dramatic events mentioned above.
-p (for Melbourne Protests)

And perhaps not coincidentally, the ABC have just now published this:

Asylum seekers escape detention to join rally

Posted 23 minutes ago

The Department of Immigration says three asylum seekers escaped a Melbourne detention centre on Saturday to join a protest taking place outside the facility.

Refugee advocates gathered outside the Broadmeadows facility on Saturday afternoon to call on the Government to honour its promise to release children from detention centres.

The Immigration Department says the three asylum seekers scaled the fence to escape the facility.

It says authorities decided to wait until the protest had finished to return them to the facility.

Speaking through a translator, one of the asylum seekers spoke of his desire to live a normal life.

"He's saying all they're asking for is freedom, they just want to have a good life like everyone else, like a human," the translator said.

"They say we're not animals, we're human, we want to live like a human - that's all."

Meanwhile, protesters say they were shocked at the "heavy-handed" police tactics used during the rally.

Video footage from the protest shows police hitting a person with capsicum spray.

Oliver Butterfield was sprayed as he tried to lock himself to a fence and says he was "shocked and appalled" at how police handled the situation.

"I intend to try to hold them accountable in any way that I can, it's simply not on," he said.

"It was a peaceful action. I feel like their violence towards me was really heavy-handed and unnecessary."

Police say they were trying to prevent Mr Butterfield from injuring himself when the capsicum spray was used.

This video contains crystal-clear footage that could be use in evidence against those boys if they were charged with escaping immigration detention. Please do what you can to STOP it being disseminated. I'm sure it's too late, but it is important to consider the consequences for these boys.

I suspect the videographer concerned did not receive the message that was passed to me directly from the boys themselves, asking that photos - and by extension footage - of them should not be published, not out of fear of consequences to themselves, but from concern of possible reprisals against their families back home. (I'll admit that I was then a little taken aback to see them giving interviews on camera just prior to re-entering the compound, but perhaps one should not assume cool-headed consistency from anyone in their situation...) I note the video was made private for a time earlier today, but has since been made public. That is a decision that the person responsible must take. At the time, I put it to the messenger that I would respect the request myself, but could not answer for any of the many others with cameras. His response - and he was also a photographer - was that he would not publish the photos he had taken, and words to the effect that at least then he would have done what he could to respect the boys' wishes.
As to the question of prosecution - as someone has pointed out, there would be no need for any more evidence if that course were to be taken: there were police witnesses to the escape, guards who presumably could identify the boys were nearby, and of course escorted them back into the centre. I don't imagine that there would in any case be a question of denying the fact, whatever the defence might be as to mitigation etc, but I am not pretending to any legal expertise. An undertaking was given that provided the boys did not attempt to leave the immediate area where they were treated by the paramedics, and returned to the centre voluntarily, there would be no action taken against them - beyond a week's loss of excursions, apparently, though I didn't hear this. It remains to be seen, of course, what this undertaking will be worth, but my expectation would be that the authorities would prefer to avoid the further bad publicity resulting from the protests which would certainly follow any attempt to go back on it.

I was there on Saturday and spoke to a number of the peaceful and more mature protestors, including the organisor. So why did they tell me they wanted to disassociate themselves from the rabble trying to breakdown the gates. The same ones hurling abuse and threats to police. The same ones who will be the first to turn to those police when they are robbed or assaulted or have something stolen. Those police have opinions and families and were doing their jobs. Their job is to be impartial and keep opinions to themselves. I thought they did a fine job. The "thugs" are the ones who attend these rally's to make noise and just try to be seen in the media. They believe in and stand for nothing. Well done to the fellow protestors who went to express their opinion lawfully.

> I was there on Saturday


its a bit strange that you consider it 'impartial' to keep innocent children in jail and to pepper spray anyone who challenges that. that is their job, but its certainly not impartial - its about as impartial as the people shaking the fence. and if the job of the police is to keep children in jail (it appears to be) and to inflict severe pain on anyone who challenges their job (it is) then, YES! they are doing a marvelous job of it!
p.s do you think those protesters who were assaulted by police will turn to those same police to deal with the assault that they, those very police, just gave them? that would be a bit awkward wouldnt it?

you have it wrong my dear, the thugs are actually the government who allow these sorts of detention centres to exist. The police are representatives of the Government who are meant to be representing you and I. Using pepper spray, being armed, etc is barbarian. These are barbarian people. There is no loving kindness and non violent approach. They wiped out all of the Full blooded indigenous peoples in Tasmania and Victoria and they raped the Indigenous girls and kept them as slaves. These people are protecting a status quo that keeps the likes of you and me suppressed. They want the land and play a silly game of land ownership and money. Think about the reality. I am not into people working for others. I am into genuine autonomy and having leaders who are like the Dalai Lama or Michael Eckford in powerful positions because they know about the "real law". Do you want these people dictating to you for the rest of your life? Making decisions for your country without being informed. They have been doing this for 240 years. Please think about the Reality. The Reality is one of impositions. If one does not work now then you starve. In days of old you had a lot of time to think and enjoy living. The black fellas were livin. The people in Australia are all slaves to money and a made up concept of land ownership. In actual fact the land owns us and we have to stop raping the land and women and girls.

Let's not carried away here. People shook the fence for about one minute in response to seeing a group of boys being tackled by police inside MITA. Maybe that wasn't great, but it was better than ignoring the fact that the boys were being set upon, something that the organisers did. People shaking a fence is hardly thuggery and does not compare to people being sprayed with capsicum spray for trying to lock themselves to a fence. Let's not forget as well that the organisers led half the crowd away while the boys who had escaped were still outside MITA. What kind of solidarity with refugees was that?

Jessie, the detention centre is full of camera's and there were many police witnesses. They don't need this video or any other pictures to prove those boys tried to escape. All that you are doing by demanding the photos and video be taken down is stopping people showing the world what really happened.

Can the person who said the organisers led away half the crowd please elaborate? I have heard conflicting stories about why people left and I would like to know what actually happened.

I'm not the writer, but I was there. A few people left when the fences got shaken. Later on the organisers announced from the stage that the protest was over and that there'd be a march back to Sydney Rd. There was no announcement about what was happening with the boys or how they were to be looked after. Someone who was talking to them told me that the security hadn't agreed not to carry out reprisals against the lads so we decided to stay until they were safe. The majority of the Socialist Alliance and Alternative people left however. As the cops were hanging back I asked if the cops had agreed not to snatch the boys, but no one I spoke to thought so and after they capsicum sprayed protesters we figured they couldn't be trusted. Sue Bolton remained which was good, but as she had failed to announce anything from the stage when the boys escaped and had told everyone to march off quite a few people were annoyed with her and no longer trusted her. The socialists shouldn't have told people to leave as the only way we could ensure the boy's safety was to surround them with as many numbers as possible. If they thought the boys were safe they should have explained from the stage why it was okay to leave so that everyone knew. I'm not sure why they left exactly- maybe they were worried their members would caught up in a fracas if the police attacked more protesters? Luckily lots of people did stay to protect the boys.

I'm the writer. I don't know why they left either, but they did and it was long before a deal was struck concerning the escapees safety. As one of the others commented they may have wanted to disassociate themselves from people who shouted at the police and rattled the gates AFTER they witnessed the police tackling detainees (watch the video). Such shouting and gate rattling lasted about two minutes and was hardly very full on, it's only a gate after all. To be honest it was all very confusing because no one made any announcement explaining why we should march off- they just said that the rally was over and left about 20 minutes later. Clearly it wasn't over because the boys weren't safe and needed continuing support. Their leaving was a shameful act and doubly so because they were supposedly there to help refugees. I suspect the real agenda was to recruit people to their parties and that when the refugees changed things from a simple rally by escaping they freaked out. It would be good if someone from one of these organisations posted something to justify their actions.

Please don't lump all socialists together, Socialist Party members stayed until the boys were safe.

To their credit, I think, and that applies also to the others who stayed to the end.

It's disappointing to hear that. I'd be pretty sure Socialist Alternative didn't want their members in a confrontation with police (what an 180 degree turn around they've done!). Sue was probably unthinkingly trying to go with whatever plan they had before the rally, though I don't know why other Socialist Alliance members left. It's pretty poor of those who did. I hope that the people involved can make an honest assessment of what went wrong and plan better next time. Still, good on the people who organised it. It looked like a good protest from the video and it's at least made it an issue again.

Looking at the 3 so called children asylum seekers who jumped the fence, if the two who look well over 20 are children I will happily convert to Islam. You people might be well meaning but you are being conned. I have 3 World Vision kids, two Muslim, and for the 2 billion dollars we are wasting on 6,000 illegal que jumpers this year we could be doing so much more good in the world by sponsoring 5.5 million World Vision kids. And unlike these so called destitutes, from what I know the familes of the kids I sponsor could no more raise the 10-15,000 dollars to pay a people smuggler than fly to the moon. Sure Afghanistan is crap and dangerous, but if that is all that is needed to qualify what is to stop the whole of Afghanistan relocating here.