Two officers bear A4-sized printouts from the police station computer of the suspect’s social media account. The evidence comprises images of a protest, along with the caption making the apparently inflammatory accusation, “Your government does not care about you.”
The suspect is asked if he can confirm he took part in a protest six months ago, which had been deemed an illegal gathering in contravention of lockdown laws – and that’s when the absurdity escalates.
Vacillating between anger and incredulity, the suspect realises that this is not, in fact, a joke, but that these two police officers have been sent to his house with the intention of arresting him for attending a public protest that he had almost forgotten. Sensibly, he winds in his disbelief enough to provide a “No comment” and “I don’t recall,” awake to the risk of unintentionally dropping himself in what is clearly considered a serious police matter.
For if it’s not serious, then why are two officers standing at his front door at night trying to coerce him into a confession of wrongdoing?
It’s the everyday courtesy of the officers, the faux-friendly attitude, the line of questioning, the self-assurance and, most of all, that neat little folder, that makes this encounter so unsettling. And it’s patently obvious that they believe they have their man and he can “No comment” all he likes but this conversation is certainly going to continue down at the station. So you better grab your shoes.
Someone, apparently unknown, reported this ‘crime’ to the police, giving the Facebook details to investigators to provide all the evidence they needed to affect an arrest and punish a person who dared to protest about state-imposed restrictions on freedom.
That gutless ‘dobber’ is now sitting at home, maybe even peering out from behind their nets in a house across the road, comforting themselves with the knowledge that they have helped the police apprehend a suspect who allegedly flouted the most draconian rules ever imposed on Australia’s democratic society.
This is not Neighbourhood Watch. This is the suburban Stasi. Snooping, curtain-twitching, suck-up busybodies leveraging their unquestioning adherence to lockdown rules to rat on their neighbours and those who hold opinions not aligned with their own – because they are afraid.
And where did that fear come from? Why, the Australian government and public health officials in charge, of course, who managed to turn an enviably low number of deaths – in global terms – across the population of 25 million into an opportunity for the police to fire rubber bullets and pepper spray at demonstrators who dared question the state’s approach.