Sunday, 2 July 2017

A CANBERRA BOY GETS ARRESTED

A CANBERRA BOY GETS ARRESTED
by Dave Wheeler  
   This anecdote is mainly about my old mate, Brownie, (the late Owen Brown). It is to a lesser extent about a bloke who was employed by the ACT Police Force in 1971, who, in my opinion, brought his organisation into disrepute. It is also about the Apartheid system which once operated in South Africa. It is also about rugby. It is also about injustice. 
     In regard to Brownie, I could write a book about him. When I get together with my mates he is often the main topic of conversation, as we have a myriad of humorous stories regarding his sense of humour, his propensity for practical jokes and his adventures. Brownie was a highly ethical bloke, even though he had his own code of ethics which some may not have understood, and he was a dependable and loyal mate.
    During the year of which I mainly write, 1971, and the years that preceded and followed that year, Brownie and I got up to much that brings a smile to my face. I also had two insane years living with him in Evatt in the mid 70’s, and he features often in the book I wrote entitled, “Tales of a Canberra Boy.” 
   What I am writing about revolves around the 1971 Springboks tour, and what happened to Brownie when the Springboks played the ACT at Manuka Oval on the 21/7/1971.

  To the left of the photo above is my old mate, Trout, aka Ric Fitch, who is in the black teeshirt. It was taken at the Dickson Pub (which has since been demolished like many other unique and/or historical buildings in the Berra) circa 1973, at his buck’s party. He had just sculled a yard glass when the photo was taken. The subject of this story, Brownie, is to the far right of the photo, in the light blue teeshirt, laughing and clapping.
   After consulting with Trout I will add that the reason everyone was clapping and laughing was because Trout had vomited back into his yard glass during his first effort at trying to scull its content. And because he had a persistent nature he sculled it again, along with pieces of whatever tucker he’d been eating that had been regurgitated. He somehow managed to keep it down.
   Just after the photo was taken a lady in her late fifties, who had been sitting at the table next to us, yelled at several of us in an angry, broad, high-pitched Australian accent. Her words were,
“I know you young people like to enjoy yourselves, but that was disgusting!” She then left. I suppose she was right.
    The story begins at the very end of my 1969 school year, when I attended Dickson High and was in what is now called Year 11. I had turned 17 in September of that year and had bought myself a 1959 Ford Consul ute. 
    During a lunchtime several of us went to Brownie’s house, which was in Antill Street, Watson. Brownie’s parents were at work, so we carried-on in the unrestrained way lads of that age and our type carry-on. Life was one big joke and we were full of youthful exuberance and optimism.
   I can recall the contents of the sorts of conversations we would have as 17 year olds when we met as a group.  It was mainly about creating laughter, which was usually achieved by recounting humorous and often anti-social events, taking the piss out of each other and telling each other about our very limited, and in some cases non-existent, sexual exploits. Had our conversations been recorded they would be regarded as loud, raucous and degenerate. They would have horrified our mums. 
     When, on the occasion of which I write, it was time to go back to school, I, with Brownie in the passenger’s seat, reversed my ute out of Brownie’s parent’s driveway. But, because of my inexperience I didn’t look properly, and I reversed into the tail end of a car that was driving past. As luck would have it the bloke  driving the car was an off-duty copper, in uniform, driving his own car to or from work. 
    Brownie began laughing hysterically after he realised I had run into a cop, but the copper did not see any humour in what had occurred. After he got out of his car he told me I'd spoiled his driving record of 13 years without an accident. I could hear Brownie, and our mate, Ouncie, (John Outhwaite) laughing in the background after he muttered those words.
   There was virtually no damage done to my old ute, although I'd put a large dent in the rear side of the copper’s car, and his car appeared to be near-new. 
    The ACT Police had an accident squad at that time. They were called and were not too far away. When they arrived the copper I had pranged into of course knew them well, and they addressed each other by their first names.
     The accident squad coppers asked Brownie how fast he thought the off-duty cop’s car was travelling, and when he told them it was above the speed limit they said to him,”You’re a liar!” They then booked me for negligent driving, and because my tailpipe had come off I was also booked for having an insufficient silencer. They did not issue on-the-spot fines at that stage, so I went to court, pleaded guilty, paid the fines and forgot about the incident.
    Little did I know that that was not the last I would see of the copper I pranged into. Nor did I know that he would, from the way I believe things went, change sides and become a criminal while still working as a copper. Although having said that, I would be surprised if he had not committed criminal acts while working as a copper before I pranged into him. 
     As I am not identifying the said copper I will refer to him for the rest of this anecdote as “Quoll,” because I thought he looked like one, although I would say he had far less courage than a quoll. They are fearless and ferocious little marsupials if cornered.    
    I will now fast-forward to 1971, when the South African rugby team conducted its controversial tour of Australia and played the ACT at Manuka Oval. At that time Australia was divided, as was much of the rugby world, when it came to whether we should play rugby and other sports against South Africa, considering South Africa was run by a brutal racist regime and non-whites were excluded from selection when it came to representative sporting teams.
   Some, at the time, argued that sport and politics should not be mixed, and that if we engaged in sporting activity with South Africa we could convince them of the error of their ways, and that not engaging with them would have no effect on whether or not they retained Apartheid. 
    Others argued that by playing sport with them, having diplomatic relations with them, and trading with them, we were in-effect telling them we either condoned what they were doing or that we didn’t particularly care.
    Although I agreed that Apartheid was an evil regime that should not have existed, I could see glaring inconsistencies when it came to the suggestion that we should sever diplomatic relations with that country as well as impose on it trade and sporting bans. I say that because although the regime was immoral and brutal, it was not necessarily as bad as other totalitarian regimes and pseudo-democracies of that era that also shat on their poor and powerless, irrespective of their race. Yet we continued to trade with those other countries, play sport with them and retain diplomatic relations?
    Many of the countries of which I refer had no laws that prohibited child labour, and some turned a blind eye to child prostitution and sexual slavery. Some of them still do. And when it came to racist regimes, the Indonesians truly qualified for such a title. They treated the West Papuans appallingly and they continue to do so. And they are right on our doorstep!
   So, why was the protest movement focussing just on South Africa? Was it a matter of fashion? Whatever the reason, I found the inconsistency totally irrational. 
     I was of the belief at that time that we should be semi-isolationist and sever ties with most of the rest of the world and I have retained that belief.

   Others who agreed with me, to the extent that they could also see the inconsistencies, argued that even if we were being irrational by focussing just on South Africa, if Apartheid was abolished in that country by the West ostracising the place, it would still be a real positive. It would be a positive even if worse regimes in other countries continued unabated because some good would have come out of our efforts.
     History has shown that those who thought in the latter way were right, because it was mainly sporting bans, trade bans and the severing of diplomatic ties by most of the West that led to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa. 
      Getting back to the subject, although I can’t speak for Brownie, when it came to my going to Manuka Oval to watch the Springboks play the ACT, I gave it some thought (but not enough) and decided to go so I could enjoy the game, the action on the sidelines and the company of my mates. 
   I thought at the time I could morally justify watching the Springboks play the ACT because I was aware of the inconsistencies I have just outlined. But, with the wisdom of hindsight and having given the matter further thought, I now believe I should not have paid money to see the Springboks play unless I was willing to protest and attempt to disrupt the game for the reasons I have already outlined, and that I did not do.
   So, here was Brownie and I at the game. We could see where the protesters were, so we went down amongst them and stood right next to the 7 foot high fence separating the crowd from the game. 
   Behind the fence there were around 600 coppers strung right around the ring of the oval at arms length from each other. There were also coppers inside the fence in front of the protesters, making sure they did not attempt to jump the fence to disrupt the game. There were smoke bombs being let off and rotten smells coming from several spots. Most of the time the protesters chanted, “Racists go home!”
   We were having a great time, as we were enjoying watching the rugby, and the sideshow between the protesters and the coppers at the same time. We witnessed several people being arrested and carried through a narrow gate while we were watching, although I could not see what they did to warrant being arrested. 
    While this was happening, I noticed, on our side of the fence, Quoll, the same copper who I had backed my car into in 1969, standing there, facing the protesters. We thought this a great joke, so we edged-up closer to him. I looked at him, gave him a little smile, and said,”Do you remember me mate?”
   I was baiting him to a small degree, but he had a lot more power than me at the time given that the place was swarming with hundreds of his colleagues, so there is no way I could have been seen to have been attempting to intimidate him in any way.
   I am led to believe the police were not armed at the time, although I am sure some in the senior ranks who were there would have had access to arms if needed.
   His response to my question was, “Should I? And if you call me mate again I’ll arrest you!”
   Brownie began laughing at his reply, so he said to Brownie, “Do you think it’s funny?” 
   Brownie, when replying, got out the words, “Under the circumstances,” and at that Quoll had him arrested. Several coppers grabbed Brownie, lifted him up and carried him through the narrow gate and into a paddy wagon. 
  When I reflect on Quoll he was obviously shitting himself, and as such obviously in the wrong job. Why was he so stressed-out while in the presence of so many other coppers? What possible harm could we have done to him? Other than that, the protesters were mainly uni students and hippie types who were essentially harmless. It may have been a different story had they been a crowd of neo-nazis or members of the traditional left, such as wharfies or the BLF.
    Quoll would not have lasted 5 minutes if he was employed privately as a bouncer in a nightclub given that bouncers have zero authority and are unarmed. Actually, I doubt he could have handled being a private security guard at a shopping mall for the same reason. I wonder how he went while working as a copper when he was by himself and had to confront violent people. I'm guessing he always carried with him a spare pair of reg grundies and daks, as he would have lost control of his bowels on such occasions.
   When I asked him if he remembered me he could have replied to my question with a few well chosen words instead of threatening to arrest me for calling him “mate,”given that he had no legal authority to do so. He could have also engaged me in conversation or simply ignored me. It’s not as if I was a threat to him in any way. And it’s not as if he was a young and inexperienced copper who had just been recruited. He must have been in his thirties.
   The following link will take you to footage of the said game in 1971, which includes arrests. I'm sorry I cannot embed it. The blurb before it states that 49 people were arrested at the game (Brownie would have been one of the 49) and that observers complained of rough police treatment and of the arrests being arbitrary and unreasonable. That was an understatement!
   The two links that follow the first link are descriptions and photos of the event from the Canberra Times.

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/springboks-manuka-oval-1971
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11955096
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11955102

   I took the blurred photo above immediately after Brownie was arrested, which shows the coppers taking him away. It’s blurred because I was jostled by the crowd while trying to take the photo, and unfortunately Brownie is not visible within the photo. All that can be seen are the coppers who were carrying him towards the small gate in the fence at the time.
    Brownie told me that after he was arrested and placed into the paddy wagon with a bunch of protesters the copper who was driving made their ride as uncomfortable as possible by deliberately and intermittently slamming on the brakes.
    The irony of it all was that Brownie was a rugby fanatic and had gone there to watch the game. He must have stuck out amongst the uni student protesters like a Jap on Anzac day! The poor bugger was arrested with a bunch of protesters and was guilty of nothing more than being the mate of a smart-arse, who also did nothing that warranted arrest. 
    Unlike me, Brownie as an adult continued to play rugby, and in the last years of his life he became the president of Canberra’s Easts rugby union club. The above photo is of Brownie’s Easts rugby team in 1976, several years after the event that led to his arrest. Brownie is in the front row 3rd from the left. Thanks to Trout for the photo.
    I went to the Civic Police station to see if I could get Brownie out without involving his parents, and I was told by the coppers at the reception to “Fuck off!”
    I’m not sure exactly what happened with Brownie after he was taken to the station, but I do remember being told that his mum, who I always liked, (partly because she was never backwards in coming forward, particularly in matters concerning her kids), after learning about what had led to her son’s arrest, confronted Quoll and reminded him of the fact that I had run into him outside their driveway.     
A better shot of the arrest area. Thanks to Billy Southern for the use of the photo.
   Apparently he did not handle it well, as he must have realised it would not look good for him if the matter went to court. Other than that, I had taken down the name and contact details of a bloke who had witnessed what had happened, and he was willing to testify on Brownie’s behalf. 
   Brownie was eventually charged with having used indecent language. From memory they alleged that he had said, “All coppers are cunts,” or words to that effect that contained the words coppers and cunts.
    When a copper fabricates a charge he has committed a criminal offence, and as such has gone to the other side and joined the crim’s he is paid to control. When that occurs he has no right to moralise or pretend he is a pillar of the community. And because I was there when Brownie was arrested, and I clearly remember what Brownie said, (or did not say), I believe Quoll was a criminal. 
   A criminal is defined as a person who commits a crime. The definition, as such, includes people who commit crimes but are not charged or convicted for such crimes.
   Later on all charges against all protesters were dropped because of a legal technicality, although not before Brownie and I had seen a solicitor and made contact with the other witness, (who I got to know and still see occasionally)
   My guess is that the real reason the charges were dropped was not one of a legal nature. I believe it highly likely that the whole thing was politically embarrassing for the government and that once the tour was over they thought it best to say as little as possible about it in the hope that it would all be forgotten. I also believe that a large number of coppers would have been exposed for charging people for offences they did not commit.
   Quoll was very lucky the charges against Brownie were dropped. Had they not been dropped Quoll would probably have been exposed as a bullshit artist and a criminal when the matter was heard in court. And that would have been the best outcome he could have hoped for.
    If Brownie had been charged and convicted for having used the indecent language he did not use, Quoll would not have known what hit him. A wronged Brownie was unstoppable. He would have ensured Quoll regretted the day he was born, and whatever Brownie decided to do to seek vengeance I would have been morally obliged to assist, considering I was the smart-arse who brought the whole thing on.
   I hope Quoll, for his sake, saw the error of his ways, quit the police force and got a job as a clerk, where the greatest risk would be having a filing cabinet fall on him, as he was clearly not suited for the job.
    Now, although I have really given it to Quoll in this anecdote by publicly ridiculing the man, if he is still alive he will not suffer from what I have written nor will his reputation be tarnished, as I have not identified him. And I doubt anyone reading this yarn, other than the other witness to Brownie’s arrest, will know who he was or is. Had I retained a grudge against the man I could have identified him without risking being sued, because I can back up what I have written. 
   It could be argued that fabricating evidence related to a relatively minor charge, which is what Quoll did with Brownie, pales into insignificance when it comes to bringing the AFP into disrepute when compared to the proven and/or alleged actions and comments of the ex AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, in relation to the arrest of the Bali 9 and what he said before the trial of Schappelle Corby.
    In relation to 1 of the Bali 9, Scott Rush, whose father asked the AFP to stop him leaving Australia to prevent him being arrested in Bali, (which they did not do), a youngish copper I met said, to me “Keelty threw a hospital pass to every copper in Australia. What parent will ever trust a copper again?” And many Australians believe Keelty has blood on his hands in relation to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran.
    When senior coppers and politicians talk about how they have no sympathy for drug smugglers and how they can justify cooperating with countries like Indonesia because they know they are saving lives by stopping drugs reaching the arms of addicts, they are insulting the intelligence of their audience. Corruption is a way of life in Indonesia, and drugs of a hard variety are always readily available as long as they are bought from certain people. Politicians and senior Australian coppers know that. Do the latter have any pride or self-respect or is that a rhetorical question?

     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bali_Nine
    I do not carry a grudge against Quoll and I sincerely hope he has had a good life, because although he behaved very badly by fabricating a charge against my mate, 46 years have elapsed since the event took place. And as I have said in many anecdotes and essays I have written, I have no right to cast stones against anyone because of their bad behaviour given that we all do things we regret, and I have done many, many things in my youth I regret. 
    Other than that, I don’t believe we possess contra-causal free will. And if you don’t understand what I mean by that last statement you may want to read the essays on the following links. They say nothing new, but they’re hard-hitting and very well-written, and you may find them liberating.
http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/free-will/free-will-skepticism
http://ethicalfocus.org/free-will-the-last-great-lie/

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