Historian Michael Foley said during times of war pacifists often get mugged. As a nonviolent activist working to end the war in Iraq and the corporate war profiteering that comes with it, September 2005 has been the most surreal time of my life and I definitely feel like I got mugged by Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock and the Australian government.
After three lovely months of traveling through Australia and meeting people, one Wednesday afternoon during the second week of September I was called by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, and asked to come in for an interview. I asked if I was required to do so and the woman at the other end of the phone said "No, you are not obliged too." I then asked if this would affect the remaining two weeks of my time in Australia and she said she couldn't say. I should have listened with closer attention to that non-answer.
A few days later, walking out of a cafe in Melbourne, I was snatched off the street by four Australian Federal Police and two Immigration Compliant Officers. They informed me I was being placed into "questioning detention" so that the Department of Immigration could assess if they were going to cancel my tourist visa or not. In truth, "a competent Australian authority" had already assessed me to be a "direct or indirect risk to Australian national security", canceled my visa and began the process of removing me from the country (which would end up costing me $11,000 Australian dollars). By that evening, I was in solitary confinement at the Melbourne Custody Center, a maximum security lockup awaiting that not-so free ride home. In addition, that evening, a media firestorm erupted in Australia and I became the center of debate over free speech and the criminalization of dissent in Australia.
I spent a good part of July and August doing workshops on our Houston based campaign to get Halliburton out of Iraq, people-powered strategies to end the illegal occupation of Iraq and nonviolent action. The Halliburton talks discussed the company's history of corruption and cronyism in Iraq, tactics and strategies used by community organizers in Houston (and elsewhere) to pressure Halliburton out of Iraq and the campaign in the larger context of the American antiwar movement. The people power strategies workshop is an approach to social action that addresses immediate community priorities, builds power by mobilizing citizens, is framed by core 'citizen values' and challenges structural inequalities. It imparts on participants methods to craft a clear strategy in working for social change. The nonviolent action workshops were facilitated them in the tradition of Thoreau, Gandhi, King and countless other advocates for nonviolent social change.
I facilitated these trainings at the Brisbane Social Forum, the Sydney Social Forum and Subplot, a forum for autonomous and student activists. The latter two venues were precursors for two days of protests against the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Sydney Opera House.
During those two days of protests, I also organized a protest outside the Sydney offices of war profiteer Halliburton's subsidiary KBR. It was a political theater event where my cohorts and I dressed up as billionaires, named ourselves "The Coalition of the Billing" and chanted such insurrectionary chants as "1-2-3-4, we make money when there's war, 5-6-7-8, KBR's really great!" and "We're here, we're rich, get used to it!". It was a fun little protest and many of the New South Wales police watching were laughing along with our comedy routine. I can only guess that Phillip Ruddock and ASIO missed the underlying humor.
While they may currently hold all the legal cards, they are losing the public debate as lawyers, civil libertarians, environmentalists; former government whistleblowers, grassroots activists, major media outlets and some politicians have spoken out and acted on this baffling outrageous episode. Currently, their best response has been that I "incited spirited protest". All over Australia, local communities have mobilized and rallied around my detention and removal. There have been numerous NONVIOLENT protests, occupations and direct communications all over Australia, and in the United States, confronting Prime Minister John Howard, Phillip Ruddock and the Australian government about their shabby handling of me and my civil rights. Major Australian media outlets have questioned daily why their government has acted in such a manner. This doesn't even include the outpouring of support I have read from people all over the world fed up with this type of behavior from "liberal western democracies" seeking to restrict and criminalize dissent under the auspices of "national security" and the "war on terror".
Bob Dylan once alleged to live outside the law you must be honest. I have been known to live outside the law from time to time and it has given me a degree of self-realization and honesty which I apply to my activism. I realize that while my actions are not necessarily the norm in today's world, they are dictated by conscience or as Thoreau once said "The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies... A very few -- as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men -- serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it." After the backlash I have seen against the Australian government's treatment of me, I can honestly say the Australian people are on the right track to serving their country with their consciences.
By Scott Parkin posted 8 August 05
Scott Parkin is a community organizer from Houston TX and recently traveled in Australia talking about Halliburton and the US antiwar movement, until the Australian government forcibly removed him. His e-mail is
Australia: Rattling the cage
Recently, the federal government announced a controversial new 'counter-terrorism' package. Civil libertarians were quick to raise the spectre of a police state . Yet Muslim groups argued that the new security regime is already having an impact on the democratic freedoms and everyday safety of their communities.
Anti-terrorism laws put rights at risk: Fraser
Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser says Australians could be treated unfairly under the Government's anti-terrorism [draconian] laws unless a human rights act is introduced.
Howard refuses to explain Scott Parkin's deportation
Speaking on Neil Mitchell's program on 3AW this morning, Prime Minister John Howard refused to explain why peace activist Scott Parkin was detained and deported from Australian last week.
Charges should be laid over Parkin leak, Brown says
Greens Senator Bob Brown is calling for police to charge those he says were responsible for leaking intelligence information about US peace activist Scott Parkin to a national newspaper.
Tell Your State Premier: Don't Do Ruddock's Dirty Work
Over the past several years, the Howard government has passed a series of dangerous new laws. These laws have undermined our basic legal and democratic rights.
Australian government unveils legal framework for police state
In the lead-up to his September 27 "counter-terrorism summit" with the eight Australian state and territory leaders, Prime Minister John Howard last week unveiled a package of legislation that goes well beyond the already deep inroads made into essential civil liberties under the fraudulent banner of the "war on terrorism..."
Australia: Counter-liberty plans unveiled
AUSTRALIA: VIC: BLACK Hawk helicopters and fighter jets will patrol Melbourne's skies during the Commonwealth Games next March, as part of counter-terror measures outlined today.
John H.o.W.A.R.d line roars at Fascism Week
AUSTRALIA: Parody: (Rooters) - While Attorney General Phillip Duddock helped wrap up a US protester for Prime Meanster, John HoWARd during Australia's Fascism Week after a 5 day detention debut and the removal of Mr Scott Parkin a peace activist who was deported back to Houston, Texas. The h.o.W.A.R.d fascism line, adding a dash of despotism to a week of largely draconian styles.
Parkin charged $11,700 for detention and removal
Los Angeles Friday, 16 September, 2005 : American peace activist Scott Parkin arrived back in the US today, escorted by 2 Australian immigration officials. He is expected to arrive in Houson, Texas on a Continental Airlines flight at around 3pm AEST.
Government out of control on security: Wilkie
Australia: Canberra Thursday, 15 September, 2005 : Former intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie today staunchly defended US peace activist and teacher, Scott Parkin, saying that the government's national security agenda is out of control.
Australia, USA, Iraq: Scott Parkin
The rapid and widespread response to the detention of US peace and global justice activist, Scott Parkin, has been heartening and effective on many levels. Actions have taken place in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and outside several Australian Consulates in the United States.
Peace Activist Agrees to be removed but challenges security review
ATTENTION: CHIEFS OF STAFF - IMMIGRATION REPORTERS - LEGAL REPORTERS
Australia's fascist ideal: Proof
Philip Ruddock, Federal Attorney General to Australian, hopes to eclipse the neo-cons of the US in the race toward the fascist ideal of social uniformity and control (oppression).
Anti-War Extremists Loyal to Scott
What can I say to someone like Scott Parkin? Sorry mate, to get a PEACE prize in this country you need to be drop dead sexy, go-tees are out - you gotta go. Peace Prize.
US Peace Activist to be Deported
Scott Parkin, a Texas based peace activist was detained by Federal police at approximately midday Saturday. He was en route to give a workshop about the progress and success of the peace movement in the US and companies profiting from the Iraq war.
Govt, police 'let off the hook' Haneef inquiry
8 years ago