Aborigines plan Olympic protests
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Aboriginal activist Lyall Munro has threatened mass protests during the 2000 Olympics to retaliate against police drug raids on an indigenous neighbourhood in central Sydney.
Munro said the raids were racially motivated and were part of a government strategy to "remove an eyesore" before the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics.
In an early morning operation Friday, more than 120 police swooped on an inner-city enclave known as "The Block," a notorious run-down Aboriginal housing project in Redfern, and arrested 16 people on drug-related offences.
"All bets are off -- Black Australia will rise up," said Munro after the raids. "We're coming after you mob in two weeks time."
New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr backed police claims that the raids were part of an ongoing operation to combat heroin supply in the area and were not Olympic-related.
"This is targeted intelligence-based policing directed at drug dealers," Carr told reporters. "It's got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Olympics ... and it's rather ridiculous to make that claim.
"The battle against drug dealers goes on regardless of the Olympics," he said.
Carr said the raids targeted people who sold heroin to children. He denied allegations that the raids victimized Aborigines.
"I say to Aboriginal activists that this is designed to protect young Aborigines from the scourge of heroin dependency," he said.
"The Aboriginal community should welcome this, should co-operate with the police to see that those dealing in heroin to young Aborigines, some of them as young as 13 or 14, even younger, should be handed in and arrested."
Police later confirmed that seven men, eight women and one juvenile had been charged with a total of 54 offences relating to the supply of drugs. Police also seized a large quantity of drugs and cash.
A large number of residents gathered as police raided five properties, many yelling abuse as residents were taken into custody.
Munro said other suburbs were havens for heroin supply and Redfern had been unfairly targeted.
But Redfern Police Supt. Peter Parsons said the operation was similar to others in the area in the last three years and authorities had been assisted by information from members of the local community.
Parsons said it would be cynical to suggest the operation was an Olympic cleanup.
Sydney's international reputation was not a consideration in the two-month planning for the raids, he said.