Anti-war protestors have been delivered some rough justice by a group of Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) operators after breaking into the highly sensitive Swan Island military base. The protesters are from a group known as the Swan Island Peace Convergence, and broke into the defense establishment for the third time to “nonviolently disrupt preparations for [Australia’s] imminent war in Iraq.”
The ADF has launched an inquiry into claims of mistreatment by members of the protest group who have accused the SASR of hooding, stripping, plasticuffing, and dragging them following their apprehension by the special forces soldiers.
One of the protesters, Greg Rolles, told ABC’s 7.30 that shortly after being compromised, a car came “screaming around the corner and two plainclothes men jumped out and rushed towards us.”
“This man charging at me was one of the scariest things I have seen. For about the last 15, 20 metres I had my hands in the air saying, ‘I’m a non-violent protester and I won’t be resisting’. That didn’t stop him from tackling me as hard as he could and throwing me into the ground. He then went on to put a hessian sack over my head, and after that was on, I heard one of the two men say, ‘Welcome to the bag, motherf*****s’.”
“I do remember saying at this point, ‘This is torture’, and he said, ‘I don’t give a f***’. At that point, he rolled me over on to my stomach and pulled down my pants and my underwear.”
“He kept asking: ‘How many of you are there?'”
“I was still in shock, and at this point, he picked me up by my handcuffed wrists and dragged me along the ground. So I had my genitalia exposed, I had my chest exposed, and I was being dragged five to 10 metres over to a pile of woodchips.”
Another protestor who was with Rolles, Sam Quinlan, shared a similar account.
“I was on the ground with a hessian bag over my head and hands cable-tied behind my back, and soon enough I hear him start to cut; I hear a ripping sound, and long story short, basically from bottom to top with a knife. He said, ‘The reason I’m stripping you is to make sure you’re not a terrorist and you haven’t got any weapons on you’, to which I said, ‘yeah, look you definitely won’t find any weapons. I am not a terrorist’.”
In a statement issued by the Department of Defence (DoD) on the incident, they confirmed that four of the protestors had been detained by defence personnel. They reiterated that the DoD respects the “democratic right of all Australians to express their views, provided this is done in a peaceful and law-abiding way.” The DoD were also quick to point out that “under the Defence Act, ADF personnel have the powers to detain persons they suspect are trespassing on Defence land.”
The investigation is continuing.