Imagine being sound asleep in the comfort of your own home – then suddenly being awoken in the early hours of the morning to heavily armed police pointing shouting and pointing a gun at your head.
It may sound like fiction – but for 13-year-old April Clarke it was a horrific real-life experience.
Ms Clarke was awoken in March of this year during an early morning raid on her home by Queensland Police Force’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).
According to police, they exercised a warrant on the north Brisbane home because of possible links to motorcycle club activity. Ms Clarke’s stepfather, Greg Blackwell, is a member of the Rebels bike club, and police suspected that three of his club mates – wanted for charges of ‘gathering in public’ – were living at the residence.
But embarrassingly for police, none of the three men were living at the address.
Instead, Ms Clarke, her stepfather and her mother were subjected to a terrifying ordeal which did not result in a single charge being pressed. The young girl says she was awoken by a loud noise downstairs, before her bedroom door slammed open and a bright light shone into her eyes, before an object with ‘a mysterious black hole at the end’ was pointed directly at her head.
She soon discovered that the object was a large gun. She reported:
‘I could tell by the way his arm was out, the gun [was] pointing directly at me… I didn’t know if it was police or what. It was just really scary, heaps of really loud yelling. I tried to hide myself. They said show me your face, put your hands behind your head.’
After allowing her to put a top on over her bra, the girl was led downstairs, where she witnessed her stepfather ‘struggling on the ground’ while officers pointed guns at him, and her mother pinned to the floor at gunpoint with a foot to her neck.
She began sobbing as her stepfather – who has no criminal record – tried to reassure her that he had done nothing wrong.
Ms Clarke described the scene as ‘unrealistic’ and like something out of a ‘scary, intense’ movie.
She has since had ‘major trust issues with police,’ and continues to relive the traumatic incident:
“It’s still frightening. It could be hearing a loud noise or a possum on the roof at home and it’s the first thing that comes into my head. I can’t have any lights on in the dark anymore because it reminds me of the torch right in my face. I can’t sleep with any noises anymore because it’s just an uneasy feeling.”
The family has indicated they intend to pursue legal action against the police officers, and have already rejected an offer of $3,245 to compensate them for damage caused to their house.
Innocent People Affected by Bikie Paranoia
Mr Blackwell admits that he is a member of the Rebels motorcycle club – but like the majority of members, he is a law-abiding citizen.
He previously had a licence to keep weapons at his home, but was forced to sell them after being told that his licence could not be renewed due to his association with the motorcycle group.
Other members have faced similar ordeals, with the United Motorcycle Council of Queensland saying there has been a ‘significant increase in violence and intimidation’ by police’ since the enactment of controversial anti-bikie legislation.
Last year, footage of several Queensland Police officers harassing a lone motorcyclist at a service station went viral. The motorcyclist, 45-year-old Jamie Evans, reported being detained and harassed by police for 45 minutes before being released without charge.
Mr Evans reported being pulled over 21 times and continuously targeted by police because he was a motorcyclist.
In another incident, a Rebels club member was harassed in front of his wife and 15-year-old daughter while shopping at Coles – simply for wearing a t-shirt with the club’s logo.
Motorcycle clubs in NSW have experienced similar harassment and intimidation at the hands of police.
At a recent motorcycle and tattoo show near Wollongong which aimed to raise funds for local charities, scores of police reportedly searched and harassed attendees – including some individuals who had no affiliation with any motorcycle club.
Despite ongoing complaints of mistreatment, police around the nation remain unapologetic towards motorcycle club members, largely blaming them for organised criminal activity.