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Hunter Protester Arrested In Desert


A Newcastle activist planning to stage a vigil at the Woomera detention centre for the next month was arrested late yesterday.

Dave McKay, of Glendale, was one of the 11 Hunter-based protesters who travelled to Woomera last week.

The group, known as Hope, arrived in far north South Australia on Friday and were involved in the protests that saw 50 detainees escape.

They joined an 800-strong group of protesters camped on the edge of the detention centre.

Mr McKay was arrested late yesterday after he allegedly refused to follow police orders to leave an area close to the detention centre.

Speaking from Woomera before his arrest yesterday, Mr McKay described the events of the past few days as'life altering'.

He said the situation was 'extremely desparate' for the detainees and last Friday's breakout was a spontaneous act.

'We just walked and walked and no-one stopped us,' he said.

'The people inside were determined to get out and it just happened, there was no planning or anything like that.'

Mr McKay said the Hunter-based group drove to Woomera with the intention of visiting a detainee they had received correspondance from.

'We went twice, knocked on the door and presented our letter of invitation as we were supposed to,' Mr McKay said.

'They denied us entry but we are hopeful if we stay here, they will eventually allow us to see the detainees.  many of these people have had no contact with the outside world for a great length of time.'

Mr McKay and Ross Parry, also of Glendale, plan to stay camped near the detention centre for a month.

The rest of the group left Woomera yesterday to return to the Hunter Valley.

'We were right there when the detainees escaped, it was a very powerful thing to be involved in,' Mr McKay said.

'I spoke with a 14-year-old boy who climbed the wire himself to get out, his situation was obviously very desparate.'

Mr McKay said he was hopeful other Hunter activists would relieve him and Mr Parry after the first month.

'Ultimately we would like to have a presence here until the detention centre is closed,' he said.

'We have a bus and tent to camp in and we will be getting pretty well set up.  I think there is a chance we may get an individual visitation, it will just take time.'
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