“It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.” – Queen Elizabeth The Second
I love St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
Owing to the wonderful freedoms the Cathedral gives to creative people, I have created online art there this year (for my Indonesianist website) about my own complex spiritual journey, which is now taking me closer to Anglicanism than I have ever been before in my life.
Last Sunday, I went to the Cathedral at about 6 p.m. to see if I could attend the memorial service for Queen Elizabeth The Second. As I approached the entrance I was able to say hello to a very interesting looking man carrying the Aboriginal flag. He was a Wathaurong man. As I understand it, Wathaurong is an aboriginal nation or language group located to the west of Melbourne.
The back of the Cathedral was extremely crowded and at that time it was impossible for me to see anything over people’s heads except the roof. It was also a little difficult to clearly hear everything.
I decided it might be more worthwhile for me to go outside and talk with the Wathaurong man.
I overhead a woman in good, dark clothes talking with him about the possibility of arresting him and I tried to talk with her about the human rights implications of threatening a non violent First Nations man with arrest. She told me that she was offended by me saying that she had threatened him with arrest. I told her that I was offended by her saying she was offended by what I had said. I now realise that her taking of offense proved to me that she did not understand freedom of speech.
Soon after that, the Wathaurong man was in discussions with a man at the cathedral entrance and dressed in a similar way to the afore mentioned woman.
Believing that there were potential human rights problems brewing here, I tried to be a go between and possible conciliator since it seemed to me that police were probably keeping an aboriginal man out of the cathedral.
Based on my very brief conversation with him, this man believes his people hold full sovereignty over their ancestral lands. I dont know enough about this belief yet to fully or partially ascribe to it or fully reject it, but I feel strongly that, like any real problem, First Nations claims to sovereignty in Australia must be discussed and addressed with something that gives Australia’s original first Australians a better place but probably not fully independent soveriegnty over Australian lands.
Police asked me to move on. I asked if I was committing a crime. The reply was to move on.
I stuck to my guns stating there were human rights issues. I believe in living in The Word which for me means discussing what needs to be discussed. I consider that to be both a right and a responsibility.
Police dragged me away from the cathedral. I resisted that and in the scuffle, I was pushed to the ground and held to the ground with a level of force way above what is needed for a small group of younger police officers to subdue a peaceful, but talkative, potbellied 65 year old like me.
I was now very angry and began shouting things like “Freedom of religion.”, “Freedom of speech.” , “My dad faced Japanese bullets in World War Two in Balikpapan so Australia would be free.” and “This is a police state.”
It would be a great shame if my noise caused a problem for those mourning in the cathedral, but I do not think what i was doing was completely out of sync with the beliefs of Queen Elizabeth herself. On the 9th of October 1964, HRH said, “It is my ardent desire that no citizen in my realms should suffer restraint.”
I was then frisked. This included a finger or two going down the back of my underpants between my buttocks.
I felt exceedingly uncomfortable and profoundly degraded by that.
As I recall, I said something about the finger or fingers in my underpants, but no one from the small gang of police officers made any response.
The police then took me to the Swanston St seats at the Cathedral’s side and asked me my name.
I told them I would give my name if they gave me an event number for a police investigation into Shane Andrew Patton’s culpability in the false imprisonment of Cardinal George Pell.
This question was repeated by quite a few police officers over the next hour or so and I gave variously worded but substantially unchanging responses. I did my best to impress on those officers willing to listen to me, that Patton’s crimes are much more important business for the police or other more willing authorities to sort out, than halting my human rights and religious conversations in front of the cathedral.
I was taken to a lockup and photographed and fingerprinted.
The cell I was placed in had a toilet and a camera on the wall close to the roof. this camera looked like it could see everything if someone who used the toilet was not very careful about how they used it. There was no toilet paper provided.
Finger prints revealed my identity and I was released. Police officers told me charges would be mailed to me.
Not knowing where I was and not granted the ride back to the city which I requested, I eventually found my way back to town.
My conservative, libertarian friend Rebekah Spelman has had this to say about my account of what happened:
“That’s a frightful experience, Geoff.
It sounds to me like VicPol dragged you through the gauntlet as far as they did in order to not lose face or give up ground.
What an absolute waste of resources, not to mention the needless suffering or angst for you. I hope you’re alright.
You committed no crime.
They gave you The Full Treatment.
This is what our tax payer dollars are going to.
Meanwhile a friend of mine lives next door to known junkie criminals who blatantly and repeatedly break into her backyard and shed to steal, and the police can’t do a thing at all.
This state is rotten and the problem starts at the top.”
I agree with Becky.
That is why I tried to get the police to focus more on the crimes of Shane Andrew Patton than on violating my human rights to freedom of speech, to freedom of association, to freedom of movement, to freedom of religion and to freedom from degrading and humiliating treatment.
But the most important thing here for me now is not the police violation of my human rights or the physical or low-grade sexual assault against me.
I reported a crime to them.
They did not investigate or respect the report I made.
That’s one more reason that I have the right and responsibility to call the country of my birth a police state.
Geoff Fox, 13th November, 2022, Terror Australis