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Australia Protesters demand pill testing and end to strip searches

22:20  23 november  2019
22:20  23 november  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Protest at Sydney Town Hall over NSW drug laws.© Dominic Lorrimer Protest at Sydney Town Hall over NSW drug laws.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her fellow cabinet members will have "blood on their hands" because of their refusal to allow pill testing if someone dies at a music festival this summer.

Or so says Tyson Koh, Keep Sydney Open organiser and candidate in last year's state election, speaking at a rally to protest NSW drug laws on Saturday.

A small but colourful crowd of about 150 people gathered at Town Hall Square for a rally and march to Surry Hills Police Station on Goulburn Street.

There were several DJs with sound systems on wheels playing electronic dance music and the protesters, some dressed for a night out, danced at each intersection. A few were carrying placards saying "pill testing saves lives" and "end police abuse - no strip searches".

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Mr Koh said thousands registered for the event on Facebook and a smaller turnout in real life "did not de-legitimise the message" that the government should take a harm minimisation approach to drug policy and follow the recommendations of the Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame.

The coronial recommendations included scrapping sniffer dogs and introducing pill testing at music events, overhauling strip-search legislation, decriminalising the personal use of drugs and staging a summit to look at evidence-based drugs policy based on harm minimisation.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh speaking at the rally.© Dominic Lorrimer Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh speaking at the rally.

Greens NSW upper house MP David Shoebridge told the crowd Police Commissioner Mick Fuller "should be sacked" over his comments that it was desirable for the public to have "a little bit of fear" of the police force.

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Mr Shoebridge told The Sun-Herald the issue of how we police young people "who just want to be left alone" would be one of the big topics of conversations this summer, along with bushfires and climate change.

"We've seen a very aggressive police response to some very sensible coronial recommendations about pill testing and de-policing the music festival scene, and at the same time we’ve seen a growing community concern about the aggressive use of a number of police tactics, particularly strip searches and drug dog searches," Mr Shoebridge said.

a group of people walking down the street: Protesters danced at each intersection as the Reclaim the Streets and Keep Sydney Open march made its way through the city streets.© Dominic Lorrimer Protesters danced at each intersection as the Reclaim the Streets and Keep Sydney Open march made its way through the city streets.

"I think this is the first time we've seen this sort of broader concern in the community and we have a police commissioner who seems to want to be involving himself in a political stoush and a police minister, who I think would rather be a cop.”

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  Frontline doctors urge Premier to trial pill testing, end strip searches for drugs The senior experts from Sydney's frontline hospital for drug and alcohol admissions said the Premier should look at the evidence.The unprecedented appeal from senior staff at the frontline hospital for drug and alcohol emergency admissions follows a recent incident in which a teenage girl who went to police for help after hiding two pills vaginally was subjected to a strip search and three internal medical examinations, which uncovered no drugs but shocked medical staff at the inner-city hospital.

Mr Shoebridge said abstinence campaigns had failed to work for 60 years and were "not going to work tomorrow".

Will Tregoning, co-founder of Unharm, told the rally "drug laws are racist laws".

"A Gadigal person walking on country today would be much more likely to be searched for drugs than me,” Dr Tregoning said. “In this state Aboriginal children as young as 10 have been targeted by the police for strip searches."

Rachel Evans, a Socialist Alliance member who was strip-searched at a protest and later received an apology from police, told the rally "strip searching by police was state sexual abuse".

Ms Evans said police were strip-searching thousands of people every year but they found nothing in nearly two-thirds of cases.

The Premier and police have opposed the coronial recommendations to offer pill testing, saying it would increase harm by sending young people the message that drugs were safe.

Police Minister David Elliott has defended strip searches and said he would want his own children strip-searched if they were suspected of breaking the law.

Strip-search officer said he feared evidence would be 'destroyed' .
The NSW police watchdog has accused a police officer who searched a teenage boy at an under-18s music festival of fabricating his story.A police officer who strip searched a teenage boy at an under-18s music festival said he didn't call a parent or guardian because he feared evidence would be destroyed, in what the law enforcement watchdog described as a "fabrication".

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