Statement from Refugee Action Collective – Victoria:
RUDDOCK PROTEST IN MELBOURNE
Last Friday, 31/5, hundreds (300 according to The Age newspaper) of pro-refugee demonstrators gathered outside 310 Collins St.(sic) Melbourne at 5pm in support of an action called by the Refugee Action Collective – Vic (RAC). The demonstration lasted two hours.
The protest was called against an Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) meeting where Philip Ruddock, Andrew Bolt and Bob Birrell were ‘dialoguing’ about immigration. The IPA is a noted right-wing think tank with a long history of anti-worker, anti-union activities.
The presence of the demonstration forced the organisers to move the meeting across the road to 301 Collins (sic), a bigger building with more entrances. The demonstration was then forced to picket both the front and back entrances of the new premises.
The police presence was quite numerous and forceful, with police horses used against the demonstrators. The police were able to keep the meeting open and the Minister Mr. Ruddock was forced to scamper through an adjoining building to avoid the demonstrators.
Two ambulances had to be called during the evening to treat injured demonstrators. Five people needed medical attention for injuries ranging from suspected broken bones to concussion.
RAC would like to wish the many injured demonstrators a speedy recovery.
Extracts from an eye-witness account:
“When I arrived shortly after 5pm there was a substantial blockade already in place outside the announced venue at 410 Collins, as well as quite a few police hanging around on the other side of the road. After a while, a member of the Greens came over and suggested we should go and stand outside 401 across the road, to see what the police reaction might be – he had had a tip-off that the venue had been changed, but didn’t know whether to believe it.”
“Sure enough, almost as soon as half a dozen or so of us took up position outside 401 a contingent of police came strolling down, allegedly because they thought they’d better keep an eye on us. Then they started pushing people out of the doorway and down off the steps. More people moved across from the original blockade and someone from the Greens asked a person who was going into the building, what he was there for. The reply – ‘To see Philip Ruddock’ – rather gave the game away.”