NSW Police has called in hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel to police locked-down LGAs, because apparently having the army patrol the streets of western Sydney is exactly what we need right now.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said police are clamping down to “get us out of lockdown sooner” and made a formal request to the Federal Government for help from the Army. Specifically, he has asked for 300 ADF personnel.
“As I have said previously, support from the Army will add another line of defence to the NSW Government’s crackdown on COVID-19 compliance,” he said in a statement.
“The Army’s unique skills and training have combined many times with those of our police officers to serve the people of NSW in times of crisis, such as the floods and severe bushfires we’ve experienced in recent years.
“This will be a functional, effective and dynamic team to fight this pandemic,” he said.
Except, we can hardly compare the need for military in the bushfires and flooding to lockdown enforcement. With the former, the ADF was helping extinguish flames, evacuating people from their homes, saving children from burning rooftops, etc. In those instances, the enemy was the natural disaster they were fighting.
This time around, the target of their force is other people. The messaging is completely different. And the Army reinforcements aren’t fighting a virus, not really – they’re targeting people, and specially people from western Sydney, who are more likely to be marginalised either by class or race and already have a history of being overpoliced.
Yes, the COVID-19 situation is dire. Cases are the worst they’ve been since the start of the pandemic. We are definitely in a crisis, but it’s not police that are going to save us from this – it’s good policy, communication, compassion and support.
Most of the positive cases we are seeing right now are either coming from household contacts or essential workplaces. The key here is to create a financial support system to incentivise people to stay at home if they are working and feel unwell. Like when Victoria created COVID-19 relief payments for people who were waiting on test results.
People are catching it in their essential workplaces now, how is that ‘doing the wrong thing?’. Vic has $450 payment to stay home & isolate while waiting for test results, and Vic & SA have $1500 payment if found to be positive and have to miss work. NSW has to change.
— celerysorbet (@CelerySorbet) July 29, 2021
Instead, we are seeing our state treat people in locked-down LGAs like they are criminals – when we should actually be thinking about their home life, financial situation, marginalised status and every other element that would impact people’s compliance to health orders, or even their ability to follow them. If there’s an influx of cases from workplaces, and people can’t afford to *not* work without risking being unable to pay for their living costs, then maybe the focus should be welfare and support. Not policing.
Best way to control people and make them do what you want is to pay them to stay home.
Best way to inflame a situation and make people desperate and angry is to use authority to force them to stay in their homes without any help.
Somehow I think the second one is the goal. ????
— Amber May (@amberhague) July 29, 2021
We’re already seeing a rise in dangerous anti-lockdown sentiment, and a lot of that sentiment has come from misinformation and confusing, inconsistent messaging from the government. But instead, let’s punish low-income migrant workers in the west, right?
I’m not the only one concerned about the way the pandemic is being handled with punitive force rather than compassion and support., with many slamming the involvement of the ADF in Western Sydney as demoralising.
Military in the streets in Western Sydney? Bloody hell. Great look to a public health crisis in low income over policed, refugee and migrant dominated areas who experience racialised policing daily. Absolutely disgraceful. So over this. Build trust not fear.
— Sarah Malik (@sarahbmalik) July 29, 2021
jesus christ. journo asking for cops to go door to door fining people. fuuuuuck. I’m losing my damn mind. we can’t police our way out of the pandemic. cops are not the answer.
— Shane Bazzi (@shanebazzi) July 29, 2021
I want you to understand what’s happening. Army weren’t deployed in Bondi/other rich white suburbs. They’d never put up with that. It’s being used against people of colour/other marginalised communities. It plays well on 6pm news. “Their the problem” not our f**ken useless PM https://t.co/yd82pEiPpr
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) July 29, 2021
Given Sydney is in near-total lockdown, exactly what are NSW police doing otherwise that would require calling in the army to help? #covidnsw
— Neil McMahon (@NeilMcMahon) July 29, 2021
We’d achieve a much better result if we sent in communicators/interpreters/educators into low socio-economic/linguistically diverse areas instead of police/army
Long term, pour money into education in these areas, instead of rich private schools, it’ll achieve way more#qanda
— 💧Bee🐝🐀 (@BelindaJones68) July 29, 2021
Cumberland City Council mayor Steve Christou has also expressed concerns about how military in the streets will affect people in Western Sydney.
“I don’t think people are going to accept it very well – our people are one of the poorest demographics, and as it is, they already feel picked on and marginalised, as if their whole life has been taken away from them,” he told SBS.
“They can’t afford to pay the mortgage, the rent, the food or work. Now to throw out the army to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue to these people.
“It’s demoralising for a lot of people.”
I would even go as far as to say it’s demonising.
The ADF are expected to be deployed to the streets of the eight locked-down LGAs on 2 August, after a weekend of training with NSW Police.