As readers of this blog would know (see previous posting), there is currently a protest underway by social justice campaigner, Stephanie Calabornes. Until yesterday, things were going very well, with a commendable level of cooperation from the Salvation Army, and ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer, Eastern Territorial PR head, pictured below.
Image: ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer
Ms Calabornes, pictured below, has been protesting day and night since the 17th of July against the Salvation Army. She has cooperated at every turn with the wishes of the Salvation Army in relation to matters of contention such as: (a) where to store her sleeping bag and blankets; (b) the location of placards leaning against the Salvation Army’s building; and (c) not using sticky tape to put up protest signs on the Salvation Army building. Ms Calabornes even kept her cool when a Salvation Army staffer took away one a protest sign brought along by another protester (see below).
Image: Protest sign placed by another protester and confiscated by Salvation Army staff
Despite the Salvation Army unnecessarily calling the police on Tuesday because of the sticky tape incident (the police left without charging Ms Calabornes), Ms Calabornes remained calm and determined to see out her protest.
Image: Stephanie Calabornes holds up a protest sign
Yesterday, around 1.30 pm, Ms Calabornes was confronted again by Mr Harmer who voiced objection to a new placard Ms Calabornes brought along, shown below being held up by another protester, who joined Ms Calabornes for a time, and in closer detail. This placard called for ‘Major’ Peter Farthing to stand down from the Salvation Army.
Image: Protest supporter holds up the placard that upset ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer
Image: Close-up of the placard that upset ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer
Ms Calabornes explained to Mr Harmer that the sign was a reasonable one and was intended to draw attention to the following matters (which she hoped to discuss in more detail with any member of the public who might have walked past and viewed the placard):
- That Mr Farthing was involved in counselling, for 18 months, self-confessed child abuser, Mr Colin Haggar (Mr Farthing, pictured below, is not reported as having made any attempt to bring Mr Haggar to the police at any stage during this period);
- That Mr Farthing personally recommended that Mr Haggar be re-accepted for officership within the Salvation Army after this period of counselling; and
- That the Salvation Army helped Colin Haggar in 2002 apply for a Working With Children Check, without disclosing his previous confession of abuse, and that Mr Farthing knew that Mr Haggar had obtained clearance but did nothing at the time.
Image: ‘Major’ Peter Farthing, who counselled self-confessed child abuser, Colin Haggar and personally recommended his re-acceptance to the Salvation Army
These matters have been widely reported in the media (see the Articles page on http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org), as Mr Harmer would know.
According to Ms Calabornes, Mr Harmer then rejoined, indicating that the placard needed to be changed to be more specific. In the spirit of cooperation, Ms Calabornes then altered the placard to be more specific to refer to the Colin Haggar matter – see below.
Image: Amended protest sign, changed at request of ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer
Mr Harmer came back outside to check the new placard and again disputed its accuracy. Ms Calabornes insisted that it was appropriate, and refused to change or remove it. Mr Harmer then informed her that he was going to call the police.
Mr Harmer then called the police, who arrived approximately one hour later. Ms Calabornes provided her details to the police, who spent approximately 20 minutes inside the Salvation Army building. When the police came back outside, Ms Calabornes talked to the police about Mr Farthing and invited them to read the transcripts and statements on the website of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, particularly those from the Case Study 10 hearings.
The police again left without charging Ms Calabornes (although Ms Calabornes reports that she was warned that she was in danger of being sued by the Salvation Army, something that does not concern her at all).
After today’s events, Ms Calabornes is now even more determined to see out her protest until the 31st of July. This is because there is now a new issue that needs to be talked about, and that is the heavy-handed way in which the Salvation Army now appears to be dealing with those who express views that the Army is not comfortable hearing (or seeing).
The gross overreaction of Mr Harmer and the Salvation Army to Ms Calabornes’ protest is disappointing. The slogan of the Salvation Army in Australia is, “We’re about people finding freedom.” After what happened yesterday, however, it is clear that this does not extend to freedom of speech.
Image: The Salvation Army’s Australian slogan (NB: exceptions now apply)
It is hoped that Mr Harmer will not waste police time for a third time by calling them again today if he sees a sign that he (or anyone else in the organisation) simply doesn’t like.