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Strip-Searches of Protesters Renew Issue in Australia

17-year-old says she told officers her age
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2019 11:05 AM CDT
Climate change protesters from the Extinction Rebellion movement demonstrate in Sydney this month. Similar events were held in the Australian cities of Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

(Newser) – More than 20 people arrested during climate protests earlier this month were strip-searched by Brisbane police, a practice that's an issue in Australia. "I said I'm 17, can you strip-search me?" a female demonstrator told the Guardian Australia. "They said actually it doesn’t matter." All of the Extinction Rebellion activists detained in the police watch house were strip-searched. "When you’re in the watch house it’s already dehumanizing, you lose all your right to any dignity," the teenager said. An organization that has campaigned to end the practice for years said strip-searches are conducted daily, usually involving the powerless. "It's predominantly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are criminalized, it’s predominantly very poor people, it’s homeless people, it’s people with mental illness," said Debbie Kilroy of Sisters Inside.

On Tuesday, a police officer told an investigating commission that he did 19 strip-searches at a music festival in 2018 that might not all have been legal. Only one found any drugs: a single tablet of a drug used to treat anxiety, per the Guardian. In New South Wales, data show 5,362 strip searches were conducted in fiscal 2018-19, per ABC, and 3,546 did not find a prohibited drug or item. Strip-searches are "nothing but sexual assault by the state," Kilroy said. Brisbane police defended the searches as following established policies. Protests, including the climate demonstrations, are bringing more middle- and upper-class people to the streets and into contact with police, Kilroy said, which could help build opposition to strip-searches. "Their eyes are going to be opened by this. The experience will connect the divide," she said. (Read more strip search stories.)

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