Elderly activist to face Magistrates Court over chalk graffiti at Park Hotel on nine-year anniversary of offshore detention

Elderly activist to face Magistrates Court over chalk graffiti at Park Hotel on nine-year anniversary of offshore detention
Spencer Fowler Steen

A 76-year-old activist has been charged by police for writing in chalk on the Park Hotel in Carlton, where around 30 refugees and asylum seekers are currently detained.

Coincidentally, he will face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on the ninth anniversary of when former Prime Minister Keven Rudd announced, “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.

Peter Green, a local activist who has been campaigning for the release of the men detained indefinitely at Park Hotel, was arrested by police on February 23.

“Most of my allies and friends were alarmed at the age of 76 years I was handcuffed,” he said.

“The police were very gentle, fair and reasonable, but they asked me ‘is there going to be any trouble?’ And I said, ‘I’m the closest person to a passive resister you’ll find.’”

Mr Green said he was arrested after security guards took photos of him writing the word “shame” around 12 times on the building in chalk.

Mr Green has been summoned to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 19, charged with intentionally causing $500 worth of damage to property without lawful excuse.

Mr Green, who is a trained art teacher, said the chalk marker he used could be easily washed off surfaces with a damp cloth. He said that July 19 was the same date Mr Rudd in 2013 announced that people seeking asylum in Australia by boat would be processed offshore as part of the “Pacific Solution”.

More than 3127 people who came to Australia for protection have been subject to offshore processing and are still suffering under “failed, arbitrary and harmful policies”, according to the Human Rights Law Centre.

Since around January, Mr Green and two other activists have organised regular demonstrations outside the Park Hotel.

Dubbed “The Cage Project”, Mr Green said he and other activists bring a cage down to the hotel each Friday and invite anyone to spend eight minutes in the cage to represent eight years of detention experienced by the men held there.

In February, former Socceroos star and human rights advocate Craig Foster spent eight minutes in the cage and gave a speech calling for an end to mandatory detention.

Mr Green said former World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello, as well as two Anglican Bishops, recently entered the cage to show their support for the men detained at the Park Hotel.

Demonstrations outside the Park Hotel, Swanston St occur every Friday at 6pm •

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