Tropical Cairns a hothouse of police control

In bed recovering from major surgery, 60-year-old Cairns resident Myra Gold was jolted awake at 7:30am on a Sunday by pounding on her front door. It was the police, with a warrant to search her home. They took her phone, rifled through her stuff and searched her car.

What sort of serious criminal activity did the police say called for an early morning raid by a whole team? Wilful damage. Of a pole. With a sticker. “I was thinking, ‘This is like a scene from 1984’”, Myra explained to Red Flag. Myra “had to learn to stop putting up stickers”, the police said as they stood in her house.

The slogan printed on the stickers – which are slightly larger than a 50 cent piece – give a clue as to why they met this response: “G20 benefits the 1%.”

The G20 Summit is an annual meeting of leaders of the world’s richest 20 countries. And Myra’s sticker is spot on – it exists only to protect the profits of the super rich, while stomping on everyone else. Brisbane will host the main summit in November, but G20 finance ministers met in Cairns in September to get discussions started. An army of police also landed in the small regional centre to prevent any disruption and stamp out dissent.  

Already outraged by the onslaught from Abbott’s budget, when Myra heard G20 was coming, she knew she had to do something. “We’re facing huge cuts, while the profits of the rich just keep going up”, she says.

With a few friends, she printed anti-G20 stickers and put them up around the local shopping centre. Almost immediately her two friends were arrested as they wrote the same slogan in chalk on the footpath. Myra was called in for questioning about the “incident” but wasn’t charged.

The political nature of their arrests became clear when the lead officer snapped that they would do whatever it took to “avoid the violence of Toronto” – a reference to large protests held against the 2010 G20 summit.

Shortly after, the local Officeworks refused to print any of Myra’s stickers because of the “political nature” of her message. It was later reported that the police had directed the company to censor material customers wanted printed.

Myra’s case will be in court in October, but she is adamant that she will continue to exercise her right to free speech.

“Everyone is going to start hurting from these policies”, she says. “It’s about time people act and get involved in civil disobedience.”