Biker rights get run over

Mark Aldridge puts forward a critical view of some aspects of police operations and warns about “police state” tactics happening in South Australia.

I am a hard-working proud South Australian. My wife and I self-fund an animal sanctuary.

I have always had a strong interest in my state’s future and as such I have been rather vocal regarding Premier Mike Rann’s poor record in regards to both civil and human rights and his lack of action in regards to our ailing infrastructure, having read in detail Mike’s latest attack on our civil rights, the Serious and Organized Crime Control Act, which totally disregards all the usual international and local expected protections, such as natural justice, innocent until proven guilty, et al. All disguised under the spin of anti-biker legislation.

As is every Australian’s right, I attended a protest rally on Saturday, March 14, 2009 called the Freedom of Association Rally, run by various motorcycle clubs protesting the loss of their freedoms as a result of these laws being introduced. I do wonder who will be next.

The ensuring protest ride was well organized, went very smoothly and I feel I can say was enjoyed by all. The black mark on the day was the disgraceful conduct of our police force – I assume at the request of Mr. Rann and our “beloved” Attorney General, maybe even more so as a result of the newly registered Free Australia Party’s involvement.

In all my years I have never been harassed, bullied and intimidated by the police, however, I now have a better understanding as to why the biker community have such distain for them. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed it.

I left home at about 9am to fuel up and headed into Gawler to meet at the race course. About 2 kms from the meeting point there were police lining the road in their hundreds, they were pulling over every motor bike, obviously in the knowledge they were attending the rally.

I had to wait about 10 minutes before they got to me, I was searched, alcohol and drug tested, videoed, photographed and had to produce my license and registration. After I passed their scrutiny, I rode back onto the road, only to be pulled over 30 meters further on, even though I explained I had just been checked.

I had to wait and endure the same process, I again was allowed to leave and within 30 meters I was again pulled over to have my bike, license and rego checked again. After close scrutiny, they decided my number plate did not comply as it did not have raised letters (it came on the bike when I brought it, a Yamaha 2005 Road Star), which attracted a fine of $520. When I explained I was unaware of its non-compliance, I was then harassed and searched. I then was allowed to proceed, leaving many behind suffering the same torment.

I arrived over an hour late and enjoyed conversing with the many people that were there in support, some 400 to 500 bikers, a large amount considering the government’s spin regarding the alleged violence that would take place, and the rumours that the police would act as they did.

We left in a huge possession to ride to the Barossa Valley, led by and followed by hundreds of police in marked and unmarked cars – buses, vans, bikes, planes and helicopters. I must have been videoed and photographed on dozens of occasions.

All involved kept to the road rules and posted speed limit. After our first stop, we then headed for another planned location. As we entered the town of Kapunda there were hundreds of police, every rider had to stop on the road and alight, while we waited to all be breath and drug tested again, taking about 30 to 40 minutes, some 500 riders; even supporting motorist were harassed and received fines – one young chap for driving with his lights on, even though there were regular road safety signs advising him to do so.

This kind of harassment continued for the whole rally. The police escort at the front even continually braked suddenly on the 110 km country highways to cause all the riders to have to continually brake from 100 down to 40 kph during the whole ride. There was even the occasional driving off the road by these officers to throw up gravel and dust.

After returning to town, to the last destination at Salisbury, we had a celebratory drink. There were still camera-wielding police videoing and photographing us as we all tried to relax from a long day.

Being a bike rider for over 20 years and not a member of a club, I had heard the rumours of this type of conduct, but to witness it was an eye-opening experience. Was this kind of treatment to become their general conduct in the ensuing years at the request of our elected officials?

I said my goodbyes and started my brief journey home, only making it 2 km before coming across another police road block again only for bike riders.

I was again breath tested and had my bike inspected, receiving this time a defect notice for my exhaust, which was basically new and had been checked so as to comply with the road regulations for its make and model.

They explained that if they were wrong the inspection centre would remove the defect notice, which may take several weeks to book in, and at another considerable expense to me, not forgetting the time of attendance and the weeks of good weather I will miss out enjoying riding.

So not only are South Australians having their civil liberties stolen from them by the Rann government, but Mr. Rann is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and precious police recourses to ensure that people standing up in protest against him will be met with severe consequences.

I for one am more adamant than before to run against the Rann government and at any opportunity to try to expose their contempt for the long-term future of our state and the rights of its people.

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