The sit-in action was part of the Love Makes A Way movement, which uses prayer and non-violent action to draw attention to Australia’s treatment of refugees. The protestors called on Mr Hunt and the federal government to stop the transfer of asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island and release all children from immigration detention.
Although Mr Hunt spent some time communicating with the church leaders, he eventually called the police to arrest them after an eight-hour sit-in. At the time of the arrest, the police praised the group for their cooperation and one of the officers described the church leaders as some of the friendliest protestors he has encountered.
On Tuesday, the protestors faced Frankston Magistrates’ Court charged with trespass. More than 30 supporters joined in a public prayer vigil outside the court. The magistrate eventually dismissed all charges against the group, except for one individual who received a conviction due to past sit-in actions. He also commended the protestors for their ‘exemplary characters’.
Rev Cameron McAdam, minister of The Village Uniting Church in Mt Eliza, was one of the church leaders who faced court today.
“The courtroom was absolutely packed. We had lots of people from Mt Eliza and across the Mornington Peninsula supporting us,” he said.
Mr McAdam said the magistrate gave each defendant an opportunity to speak about their faith and what motivated them to participate in nonviolent action.
“While there has been a decrease in children in detention since the sit-in, there are still many children suffering on Nauru. We need to close the camps on Nauru and Manus and bring them here,” Mr McAdam said.
Community development worker Timothy Johnson said the sit-in was motivated by a desire to protect vulnerable people from harm.
“I have been very privileged to experience the freedom, opportunity and safety that Australia provides. As such, I feel that I have a responsibility to live in such a way that enriches and betters the lives of the vulnerable, the marginalized and the persecuted,” he said.
“I consider it important to hold our nation’s leaders and elected officials to the same standard.”
Since the first sit-in in March 2014, 174 Christian leaders have been arrested as they seek an end to the government’s inhumane asylum seeker policies. The most recent sit-in took place in the Warrnambool office of Dan Tehan MP last Monday. It included representatives from the Uniting Church, Catholic Church and Church of Christ.
Image by Love Makes a Way via Flickr.