The hostage crisis at Martin Place in downtown Sydney has ended, and the city is sitting beneath an understandable cloud of grief and shock. I had my own brush with it, as my work building is directly across the street from the Lindt chocolate cafe. I had nearly gone in for breakfast that morning, but decided against it in favour of healthier options. It was my first day of work, and we went on lockdown about 15 minutes after HR dropped me off at my new desk. Five hours later, we were cleared to evacuate, and I was lucky to be able to get home quickly and safely. After the adrenaline of the day had worn off, Scott and I felt both felt simultaneously exhausted and in pain for the victims. We woke to the horrible conclusion of the crisis on Tuesday morning.
However, what has developed in the aftermath is something deeply hopeful and humanistic: Australians refusing to cave to racism or Islamophobia via #illridewithyou. It began with one small but powerful act of compassion, and grew to symbolise a country that is actively choosing peace over violence and xenophobia. I’m inspired and proud to be living among people setting a good example for others. Good on ya, Australia.
Man Haron Monis, the Lindt Chocolatier hostage taker, was a seasoned criminal. If you need his resume of offenses, this news site does a fine job of describing Monis’ deeds prior to Monday. The bit relevant to my following thoughts is that Monis was granted bail recently, as the cases against him weren’t deemed strong enough.
Currently accelerating through government, in response to Monis’ actions, is legislation making it more difficult to receive bail. In order to be eligible, the accused must prove their harmlessness to the court. Are legislators and citizens now focusing too acutely on preventing crime without considering the consequences to the innocents accused? Is the bill effective at keeping criminals in jail, or just anyone charged with a crime? In short, is this bill effective legislation, or reactionary and fear-based?
My sincere hope is that Australia does not become permanently scarred by Monis’ act. An incredible first step in this regard was the hashtag created in the event’s wake, #illridewithyou. It’s certainly inspiring, striking an incredible tone of understanding and acceptance. It also served to prioritise dignity and respect amongst the residents of Sydney. This should serve as the after-effect of such a tragedy, not a fear driven bill hastily voted for and signed.