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Some criticised the aims of the project, defending the right of police to move beat users out of public spaces; others accused project organisers of putting beat users at risk.
In an editorial in Sydney gay and lesbian magazine in November 2008, Reg Domingo wrote: “[T]he highly public way in which CAAH has drawn attention to the issue could very well provoke more homophobic attacks against beat users.” The resulting debate — which raged in articles, comments and editorials in Sydney’s gay and lesbian press — drove a wedge through the queer community, says Capuano: “A lot of people think it’s no longer relevant because we’re decriminalised…
Wayne Morgan, an academic lawyer and senior lecturer in Law and Sexuality at Australian National University, says police have a long history of harassing men at beats.
Their behaviour has long-term impacts on both the LGBTI community and beat users, who are already heavily stigmatised and vulnerable.
Concerned beat users began researching the laws governing public spaces and proper police conduct, and sharing what they learned.
Initiated by beat users themselves in response to increased reports of police harassment, intimidation and mistreatment of men at beats across Sydney, it now monitors beats across NSW and has forged links with beat users in South Australia.
“We were concerned it would get back to the days when being a gay man was illegal, when police regularly harassed men at beats and used plain-clothed officers to entrap and charge men,” says project co-ordinator Richard Capuano, who regularly monitors police behaviour at his local beat in Sydney.
Beats are notorious for attracting gay bashers and thieves, with a number of murders, rapes and muggings occurring in and around ‘known beats’.
The unsolved murder of Anthony Cawsey is one of the more recent cases to grace headlines.