Accessibility links

Anti-War Protesters Continue Demonstration Outside US-Australian Facility - 2002-10-07

Hundreds of demonstrators have continued their anti-war protests at the joint U-S Australia defense facility at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, Australia. Ten people have been arrested in the past few days after clashing with police near the remote Outback radar base.

Hundreds of anti-war activists, from a broad coalition of environmentalists, indigenous groups and refugee organizations, set up camp outside Pine Gap in the past few days.

The base is a joint Australian-U.S. intelligence gathering facility a massive satellite network used to intercept telephone, radio and other communications. It is 20 kilometers from the central desert town of Alice Springs.

The protesters oppose any potential Australian involvement in a possible U.S.-led military strike against Iraq.

After blocking the main road to Pine Gap, police moved in to clear the area. The protesters said authorities used excessive force and at least 10 people have been arrested.

Police Commander Gary Manninson insisted his officers acted fairly and says the authorities will continue to crackdown on any protester who breaks the law. "Certainly we won't tolerate criminal damage," he said. "People who trespass in the area will be told to leave and any other criminal offenses, which occur appropriate action will be taken to apprehend people and prosecute them."

Four demonstrators have appeared in court in Alice Springs, charged with resisting arrest and obstructing police. Two men have been fined another two will re-appear before magistrates later this week.

Security was tight outside the courthouse as a hundred demonstrators marched in support of those facing criminal charges. One protester called on Australian Prime Minister John Howard to reveal the extent to which Australia was already committed to an invasion of Iraq. Demonstrators claim there is "massive and growing opposition" to Australian involvement in America's plans to attack Iraq.

So far, though, opinion polls here suggest there is a desire for more open discussion about what role, if any, Australian forces would take in a conflict in the Gulf.

Australia has been a strong supporter of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, but has stressed the need for the United Nations to be involved in any action taken to divest Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

So far, Prime Minister Howard has refused to join Britain in outright support for an American-led invasion of Iraq, with or without sanction from the United Nations.