Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tennis police

Australian vice-prime minister Julia Gillard is right. It's a pity ("bad for the nation's image") that disturbing photos and video sequences of incidents at Australia's great tennis tournament have just gone all around the planet.

Seeing ordinary spectators (often bystanders with no links to unruly elements in the crowd) suffering from the after-effects of pepper spray, many bewildered potential tourists are likely to ask, in Aussie parlance: "What the bloody hell are they wailing for?"

My personal opinion about Aussie cops has never evolved much over the last half-a-century. For me, all too many of them act like brainwashed self-righteous zombies. I remember them above all in Fremantle, in 1987, for the America's Cup regattas. One evening, I was pulled over while driving away from a social event, and taken along to the station where I was asked to take my coat off, empty my pockets, etc. Half an hour later, one of their team told me I could put my coat back on, place my money and belongings back into my pockets, and continue on my way, for they had no reason whatsoever to keep me there.

Concerning the cowboy cops and their pepper sprays at the Australian Open, many observers have pointed out that police behavior of this kind would be unthinkable in most civilized countries... particularly since it appears retrospectively that the spectator disturbances that provoked the police intervention were perfectly harmless, indeed banal at a spirited sporting match.

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