UPDATE: Police Strip-search Priest Protesting Deportation of Babies to Nauru
MEDIA RELEASE, Love Makes A Way
Thursday 11 December, 1.30am
WA Police have used intimidation tactics, including strip-searches, against a group of 8 church leaders who staged a peaceful sit-in at the Electorate Office of Julie Bishop MP.
The church leaders said that they would stay until Ms Bishop committed to publicly support a reversal of the decision by the Immigration Minister to send 25 Australian-born babies to the Nauru detention centre. The Church leaders entered the office at 9.30am on Wednesday 10 December. They stayed for eight hours and at no time disrupted the work of the office. They were invited to a formal conversation with Electorate Officer Tom Adolf who listened politely to their concerns. Tweeting from Peru, Ms Bishop did not respond to the specific issue raised by the church leaders, instead attempting to score political points against the ALP.
Australian Federal Police and WA Police attended the scene. WA Police repeatedly threatened the church leaders with strip-searches and attempted to provide the group with inaccurate information about other sit-ins around the country. More than 7 hours elapsed between the arrival of police and arrests being made. At the Perth Watch House each of the church leaders was refused the opportunity to seek legal advice, stripped naked and searched. The church leaders repeatedly expressed that they did not consent to the search, and repeatedly advised police that they were not in possession of firearms or drugs.
The Immigration Minister attempted to send 25 babies and their families to Nauru on Friday 5 December, but later relented and delayed their departure until 30 January. Across Australia on Wednesday more than 50 church leaders staged sit-ins in the offices of government politicians to dramatise the danger to these babies and to seek a change in the decision.
Participants in the Perth sit-in included an Anglican Priest, a Uniting Church Minister, Pentecostal and Churches of Christ Pastors, and lay leaders.
Teresa Lee of WestCity Church of Christ said ‘Even if you strip-search us, even if you make us squat and cough, even if you threaten us, we will not stop fighting for freedom for these precious babies’
‘I was outraged to be stripped naked to be searched for drugs and firearms, but I’m even more outraged at the way our government is treating helpless babies’ said Anglican Priest The Reverend Lorna Green
Spokesperson, Father Chris Bedding said ‘Nauru’s detention centre is not a safe place for children. There are countless reports of child abuse, rape and denial of medical care. No one should be accommodated there, least of all babies’
Participants in the sit-in are available for comment on request.