A week after the demonstrations, a demonstration of a different kind
At the ugly protest in Richmond, there were around 50 police officers who had graduated just 20 hours earlier. In their ranks was the Angela Taylor Dux – an award named after the young policeman killed in the 1986 Russell Street bombing. She had been the dux of her class and was destined to be a star. . If she had survived.
Also on the wall is the name of Trevor Given, 25, who was killed when the police car he was driving crashed in November 1989. Trevor was carrying a medical team and a donor heart for a transplant. The operation continued and a 53-year-old man was still 20 years old.
There are the names of Constables Steven Tynan, 22, and Damian Eyre, 20, ambushed on Walsh Street in October 1988 and Sergeant Gary Silk, 34, and Chief Constable Rodney Miller, 35, who in October 1998 were shot dead in Cochranes Road, Moorabbin.
These five men would have been in their fifties and had they remained in the police force, they could now retire with their maximum retirement pension. If they had survived.
Lynette Taylor is reportedly retired and likely to go through the latest COVID lockdown with her husband Stuart Schulze at their Loch Sport home, planning to catch Bream on Gippsland Lakes – if she had survived. Josh Prestney would look forward to his team’s second birthday after graduating from the Police Academy – if he had survived.
The events of the past few weeks and months when police enforced the Chief Medical Officer of Health lockdown rules have clearly eroded the public sense of goodwill towards the police that so vividly manifested in the aftermath of the tragedy from the eastern highway.
In the days that followed, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton thanked the audience for “the incredible outpouring of support for our police community”.
Now, many who traditionally supported the police are deeply disturbed at the sight of the police firing projectiles at protesters.
The police do not want to apply these rules. They did not join in forcing people to wear masks and order them to leave cafes. There is fatigue among street cops desperate for an exit strategy that will allow them to police for the public, not patrol parks, keep hotels safe from quarantine, and risk injury by trying to control angry crowds.
The first name on the police memorial wall is Constable Matthew Tomkin, shot dead by an escaped convict in December 1837. His registration number is 228. The last is Constable Josh Prestney. Its registration number is 45438.
The 174 names there were all police officers, but more than that, they were individuals with different hopes and dreams.
Which brings us to the Sanctuary where, from your perspective, the men and women who died in wars would have been horrified that such a sacred place had been used for a protest, or would have supported it because freedom was the cause for which they sacrificed their lives.
Over 100,000 Australians gave their lives in war. Think of the crowded MCG on the day of the Grand Final and imagine everyone is dead.
How dare those of us with either point of view trying to enlist a battalion of ghosts to gain a pathetic point of debate? No one has the right to speak for them.
They were herdsmen, bank clerks, teachers, farmers, engineers, nurses and rascals. Everyone has the right to an opinion that only they could express. If they had survived.