A group of asylum seeker advocates who staged a protest during the men’s Australian Open tennis final last year have been charged nearly 12 months after the event.
One of the protesters said today that the charges would not deter them from staging protests to draw attention to the treatment of asylum seekers by the Australian Government.
The eight, members of a group called Australia Open for Refugees!, disrupted the match between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic last February by unfurling a banner calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre.
Two of the protesters also jumped onto the court.
The protest occurred in the second set of the final, with Djokovic leading Murray 4-3. The banner read “Australian Open for Refugees” and “#shutdownmanus”, and was placed over an advertisement for Kia, a major sponsor of the Open.
Coinciding with the lead-up to this year’s event, the eight protesters were recently told by Victoria Police they had been charged with offences under the Major Sporting Events Act.
Karoline Morwitzer, who was one of the two people charged after jumping onto the court, said she had no doubt the timing of the charges was designed to deter the activists from staging further protests of that nature.
“I think the timing of the charges is entirely predictable for deterring us from ongoing civil disobedience on the issue of refugee rights,” she said.
“We have a firm commitment to ongoing civil disobedience on the refugee rights issue.
“The risks we take are so small comparative to the risks for refugees and asylum seekers. They’re a drop in the bucket compared to the actions we need to do to mend the system of suffering that is mandatory detention and offshore processing.
“We stand with the doctors and nurses that lock down the wards in the last year, the faith-based groups, the mums and bubs occupying the Department of Immigration.
“There is a movement of civil disobedience and we stand within that, and this is ongoing.”
Victoria Police said earlier this week that 12 people were charged during and after last year’s Australian Open, and urged fans to behave at this year’s tournament.