Why You Should Be Outraged About The Melbourne Public Housing Towers Lockdown

Enforcing a hard lockdown on one group of people who are specifically poor POC is racist btw.

Last Saturday, on the 4th of July, cops swarmed Melbourne public housing towers as a draconian lockdown was announced for the 3000 residents of the buildings, with no notice and no accessible resources aside from one text message that stated (in English only) that there was to be a lockdown.

Yes, you should absolutely be outraged over this, because not only is it blatantly racist and discriminatory, but legitimately dangerous to these people’s livelihood and health.

The Background

At the end of June, a bunch of new cases of the coronavirus were recorded in Melbourne with a concentration in 10 specific suburbs. There have been over 100 new cases a day in Victoria for the past several days.

On Saturday, July 4th, 23 new cases were confirmed across 9 public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne, and 3000 residents were forced into an immediate ‘hard’ lockdown with no notice or resources supplied to them, and an armed police presence of 500 officers at any given time per building.

No one was allowed to enter or leave the buildings for five days, including visitors that weren’t allowed to go home. It’s been five days now, and the restrictions have not lifted. In a horrible double standard, other people in the same postcode and suburb were given until midnight to prep for the lockdown.

How This Is Straight Up Discriminatory On A Classist And Racist Level

So, first and foremost: racism is systematic and institutionalised. It disproportionately affects low SES, ethnic minority communities. Class and race often come together in under-funded migrant communities, and so it’s no surprise that some of the most vulnerable people in Melbourne public housing are being abused by the current system.

Many of the public housing residents that are currently on lockdown are refugees and migrants who have already been detained and mistreated by our government in illegal containment camps detention centres, and have experience with being denied medical aid, food and family.

To reinvoke the trauma these groups have already been through at the hands of our racist government by trapping them yet again in crowded and under-resourced buildings with an armed police presence is despicable. Especially when they are the only community to under go this ‘hard’ lockdown, as their whiter and wealthier counterparts were allowed to go shopping and stock up on the supplies they need before the lockdown began.

Residents of Melbourne’s public housing towers were not given any notice of their immediate lockdown, and unlike the more gentrified places in the same postcode and suburb, were not given until midnight to prepare and gather supplies. Other areas of Melbourne were given 48 hours to prepare for lockdown. Public housing residents were given none, and visitors are still trapped with them since they were unable to leave when lockdown was suddenly announced.

There is a very real and obvious double standard in the way Black & POC residents of the units were treated compared to their white and wealthy counterparts.

The government did not cater for the culturally and linguistically diverse group they were about to condemn to imprisonment with translations of instructions – many residents were confused about what was happening and what the rules were as there wasn’t any clear communication. There are stories directly from residents of people being denied aid by police, police barring volunteers from providing food and medical supplies, and of families being separated from their children.

There Was Basically No Food Or Medical Aid For The Trapped Families

Residents of Melbourne’s public housing towers weren’t even given food aid till much later – and even then, the food that arrived was limited and not enough to feed people, without even taking into account people’s dietary requirements or health needs. The food that the government supplied was often also expired and poorly distributed, and most of the supplies they currently have are from the local community, who claim cops tried to bully them and prevent them from dropping off food.

An Armed-Police Response Is Unnecessary And Just A Blatant Attempt At Intimidation And Criminalisation

Deploying hundreds of police officers to intimidate ethnic communities is just cooked on so many levels. If you take in the context of these communities already having high rates of police targeting, brutality and racial profiling due to their combination of low SES and high Black and POC population, it’s actually dangerous.

Paired with the recent BLM movement and protests against police brutality, this just reeks of systematic and institutionalised racism enforced by cops.

Police have no place in a public health crisis – we don’t need fear, intimidation or criminalisation. We need nurses, psychologists, social workers, health professionals and other community support systems.

The people on lockdown are not criminals, have not done anything wrong, and have been very supportive and cooperative of their community needs. Yet they have cops at their door, keeping them locked up and isolating them from family, friends and resources. Is it a crime to be ethnic, poor, and living in shitty crowded apartments that the government refuses to invest in?

This entire mess is an absolute outrage. To not only target a specific group of people based on race and class, but to then deny them basic needs and treat them like criminals on absolutely no grounds is blatant discrimination. This article dissects the complex racial structures at play, and outlines how human rights are being abused in the Melbourne public housing lockdown. To pretend anything less is to be complicit in the systematic racism that enables this shit to happen.

Image Sources: Twitter 

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