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APEC protest could turn to riot

Courier Mail | September 6, 2007
Amy Coopes and Robyn Ironside

POLICE are braced for the possibility of a full-scale riot when up to 20,000 APEC protesters march in Sydney's inner city this weekend.

NSW's top riot squad officer, Chief Superintendent Stephen Cullen, told a Sydney court he was braced for the worst violence of his career, adding he had never held more serious concerns for public safety.

Protesters have vowed not to back down on their plan to march on police lines on Saturday, despite the Police Commissioner winning a court order banning them from doing so.

"Police lines will come under attack and a full-scale riot is probable," Supt Cullen, commander of the public order and riot squad, told the hearing in the NSW Supreme Court.

"Based upon my research, experience, current intelligence and evidence from internationally similar events more recently G20 in Melbourne I have absolutely no doubt that minority groups will engage in a level of violence not previously experienced in Sydney."

The planned rally is timed to coincide with a meeting of 21 world leaders during the APEC summit.

Outside court, rally organiser Alex Bainbridge would not rule out going ahead with a march to the King St barrier, accepting he and others could face arrest as a consequence.

"The court order today prohibits nothing. Our rally and demonstration will be going ahead," he said.

"As we have always said, we intend for this to be a peaceful protest. We have never ruled out non-violent civil disobedience."

Police fear groups of "well-drilled, disciplined" antagonists will infiltrate the protest, whipping up a violent mob mentality.

In Brisbane yesterday, dozens of school students made good on a threat to ditch school for the afternoon to protest against the visit by US President George W. Bush.

The action was titled WAG walk against George Bush and took the form of a small rally and march through Brisbane's CBD.

About 200 people, many of them in school uniform, gathered in Queen's Park to voice their opposition to Mr Bush's visit to Sydney for the APEC summit.

"We don't like George Bush, and we don't want Australia to become America," said a group of students from Brisbane State High School.

The Year 10 and 11 students said although they had permission slips signed by their parents, their school had tried to stop them from leaving to attend the rally.

"We were told there would be consequences if we came," Joel Meacock, 15, said.

Ferny Grove, Runcorn, Kedron and Cavendish Road state high schools were also represented at the rally, organised by the socialist alliance Resistance.

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