From the Adelaide
Sunday Mail, Sunday 7 September 2008
A MAJOR defence expo due to start in Adelaide on Remembrance Day has been cancelled amid fears of violence by radical protest groups.
Organisers of the Asia-Pacific Defence and Security Exhibition made the decision after talks with the State Government and police over planned protest action against the three-day event.
In recent weeks, police have given the Government several confidential briefings on the scale of the planned protests – including the participation of an ultra-radical group responsible for violence at last year’s APEC meeting in Sydney – and the cost of the huge police operation to counter them.
Acting Premier Kevin Foley said yesterday the Government had full confidence in police to manage “these feral anarchists that would be descending on Adelaide” if the event, at the Convention Centre, had proceeded.
“However, the organisers had to take into account a number of factors, ranging from security issues as well as the level of support from the Defence Department,” he said, also labelling the protesters “feral low-lifes”.
“We had to weigh up a number of factors and the decision was taken that the cost of security, the possible threats of violence, were risks that on balance the organisers of the event and the Government agreed were not worth proceeding with.”
Mr Foley said the decision should not be seen as a “victory” for the protest groups because the contacts with manufacturers made so far would be followed up.
The APDSE – an armaments trade fair – was to be held from November 11-13. The fair was part of a concerted push by the State Government to sell South Australia to the rest of the world as a defence state.
The executive director of APDS Exhibition Ltd, Phil Guy, yesterday confirmed the discussions with the Government and police leading up to the decision.
“The major issues discussed revolve around public safety, security risk levels and increased costs, plus the Commonwealth’s failure to support the event,” Mr Guy said.
“Earlier this week, SAPOL advised the Government and APDS about issues of public order and security leading up to and during the event.
“Police advise that the APDS exhibition is being targeted by highly organised and violent protesters with a history of focusing on similar defence and security events.”
Sources said the State Government was alerted to the scale of the protests several weeks ago.
Police then briefed the Government’s Emergency Management Committee on August 28. It is understood further meetings were held between the Premier’s office and senior police this week which resulted in the discussions with organisers.
Mr Foley was critical of the protest groups, particularly those who resorted to violence.
“These are feral, low-life people that want society to be in a state of near anarchy for their own perverse pleasure,” he said.
“Let’s not mince words here. People who say they are anti-war but resort to violence and destruction to put their case are clearly a bunch of people who are dangerous to society.
“These are just anarchists that enjoy disrupting civil society. They do not have one fig of credibility.”
Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Burns yesterday declined to comment, but police sources said senior officers had detailed to the Government the expected scope of the protests – around 500 protesters – and the “strong” likelihood of violence erupting.
The size and cost of the police operation was also detailed, along with assessments concerning public safety risks and disruption to the city over the period.
SAPOL’s Protective Security Service command had been planning a massive security operation involving almost 500 police to control the protests.
All annual leave for police had been cancelled a month ago for the week of the operation and those involved were having their riot training updated.
It is known police had received accurate intelligence on the protesters who would attend, including members of the ultra-militant protest group Mutiny.
Mutiny, and another group called Arterial Bloc, were behind the violence at last year’s APEC meeting in Sydney and the G20 meeting in Melbourne in 2006.
Many other protest groups have been attempting to rally support for their cause in recent weeks by dropping pamphlets at various events in the city.
Prior to the event being cancelled, peace activist Jacob Grech from OzPeace told the Sunday Mail he anticipated “around 500” protesters at the event.
Mr Grech organised similar protests at Canberra’s AIDEX events in 1989 and 1991. The violence at the 1991 event resulted in a third defence expo planned for 1993 being cancelled.
He said plans were under way for several busloads of protesters to travel from Melbourne and Sydney and many had intended making their own way to Adelaide.
“We have a policy of non-violent direct action,” he said. However, Mr Grech confirmed members of the militant Mutiny group were also planning to attend.
“I have heard some of them will be coming down from Sydney, but again the nature of the protest is going to be non-violent as far as we can determine,” he said.