Nyoongars stand against land rights bribe and ongoing genocide

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Green Left Weekly

Nyoongars in Western Australia have had enough of the genocide, dislocation, disempowerment, bribing and countless abuses by governments and their agents. They have made a determinated stance to hold a small parcel of land in protest for their rights as First Australians.

The Tent Embassy was set up following the 40th Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra but was triggered by WA Government putting forward a cash and benefit bribe for the extinguishment of their Native Title rights in the south-west region.

After six weeks of continued police harassment and two previous raids on the Ngoongar Tent Embassy at Heirisson Island on the Swan River, the Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett had the audacity to say, "We deliberately took a view that let them make their point for a while but that time has run out now ... It's getting out of hand and therefore action will be taken and maybe it is a bit overdue." He then said that as the issue continued it made the government and police look "impotent".

The Police then filed out of "riot vans" and lined up shoulder-to-shoulder at the Tent Embassy entrance and approached the protesters. Activist Herbert Bropho, dressed in traditional gear and protester Alison Fuller confrontation the police claiming genocide was occurring and police were breaching international law by dismantling their "Tent Embassy" .. but the police were determined to cause havoc.

Police moved in on the group and made four arrests in some very dramatic scenes. During the fracas a pregnant woman holding her baby was caught up in the melee at the statue of Aboriginal warrior Yagan and was almost crushed by a police horse.

During the eviction fracas 15 City of Perth rangers using two tip-trucks confescated 21 tents, two cars, a dinghy, camping equipment and personal belongings.

Former AFL Footballer openly supports the Tent Embassy

Former AFL Fremantle Dockers football player Scott Chisholm, who had visited the "tent embassy" each evening, said the island always had belonged to Noongars and they would fight to retain it.

"These people are sovereign people, they have every right to be here," he said.

"This [land] was claimed under Native Title... it always was and always has been since day one.

"The Government are saying this is a public area, that was before, this is now, it's 2012."

He predicted this year would be the beginning of a new era for the Noongars.

"Dreamtime is awakening and it's time to wake up," Mr Chisholm said.

"Things have got to change and [the government] needs to look at things seriously."

Three arrested in WA tent embassy eviction

AAP Tracker 23rd March, 2012

Three men were arrested and a pregnant woman holding a baby had a narrow escape after nearly being trampled by a police horse during a raid at the Noongar Tent Embassy in Perth.

It was the third police raid on Heirisson Island, on Perth's central Swan River, since protesters started camping there in mid-February to oppose the West Australian government's proposed $1 billion native title deal with southwest Aboriginal people.

The action began just after 2pm (WST) on Thursday, when about 70 officers, including mounted police, the dog squad, public order response group and other units, joined 15 City of Perth rangers to remove tents and cars parked illegally on the public reserve.

While a helicopter circled and riot police marched, protesters moved to another part of the island that features a commemorative statue of Noongar warrior Yagan, who's head was put on public display in England after he was killed by white settlers in 1833, and then exhumed and returned to Perth in 1997.

When police finally confronted the protesters, three arrests were made and a pregnant woman, Shilo Harrison, who was holding another woman's baby, was bumped by a police horse.

Police later confirmed one excessive force complaint had been made in relation to the incident.

One of the three men arrested was tent embassy spokesman Len Colbung, 33, who had previously been arrested and charged with assaulting a public officer.

He was charged on Thursday with obstructing police, while a 28-year-old man was also charged with obstructing and refusing to provide details to police.

The third man, aged 20, was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said the raid had been planned for a number of days and described it as a "success", saying 21 tents, two cars, a boat and other equipment had been confiscated by Perth rangers in contravention of local by-laws prohibiting camping on the public reserve.

However, Central Metropolitan District Superintendent Scott Higgins said a number of violent incidents in recent days had prompted police to move in earlier.

"It was a worrying change in their behaviour and an escalation in violent incidents which really made it necessary for us to go in as soon as possible," he said.

It's been alleged that a recent incident in which rocks were thrown from a nearby bridge at a boat - smashing windows and injuring people on board - was linked to the protest camp.

There have also been a number of angry confrontations between protesters and the media in recent days.

Supt Higgins said police would maintain a presence on the island overnight, and expected to raid the campsite again.

"We regret it has come to this - we've got much more important things to be doing," he said.

"(But) it's up to them - we're prepared for the long haul.

"We'll be maintaining patrols through the island."

One protest organiser issued a public appeal for new tents to replace those confiscated.

"We want to send out an appeal to every good-hearted person out there, if they can come tonight with a tent for us, we'll gladly accept it," Greg Martin said.

Another organiser, Herbert Bropho, said the protesters planned to remain on the island.

"We're not going to move on," he said.

"They can come back tomorrow with the army or whatever they want - we're not moving."

Former Fremantle Dockers and Melbourne AFL player Scott Chisholm said he had been camping at the site "since day one" and urged WA Premier Colin Barnett to meet with the protesters to resolve the standoff.

"The people have been waiting for the premier for ages - since this started - to talk with them," he said.

"We've got to get these guys out of their office, sit down and let's talk business."

Mr Chisholm said was upset by the way the protesters were being portrayed.

"I don't want to see my people being treated the way they have - it brings a tear to my eye," he said.

"It's not even a protest. It's people making a stand for their rights."

The raid followed comments by Mr Barnett on Thursday that the protesters were undermining wider public support for Aboriginal people and reconciliation efforts, and that the tent embassy would be removed by force.

Mr Barnett and Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said they believed the protesters wanted a violent confrontation to make national and international headlines.