Rally and march against the Napthine Government’s ‘Silencing Act’ – 18 February 2014

The Napthine Government’s Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 provoked a vigorous reponse from unionists and others who see it as an attack on their rights to assembly, to express their views in a democratic society – in other words, to protest. The following statement issued by the Human Rights Law Centre sums up the position:

New Victorian move-on powers unreasonably limit free speech and protest rights

30 January 2014

Proposed new ‘move-on’ powers for police in Victoria will unreasonably limit human rights and are susceptible to misuse.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said protest rights and free speech are particularly threatened, but the proposed laws may also have an impact on young people and the homeless.

“These laws go too far. Police already have considerable powers when it comes to handling protests and public order issues. They don’t these additional wide reaching and vague powers to move people on. The potential for misuse is very high,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee is currently reviewing the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 which will significantly expand the grounds on which police can order a person to move-on from a public place and will wind back safeguards that limit the use of move on powers in protest situations.

“Police will be able to move someone on if they suspect that the person has committed any offence in a public place in the last 12 hours. There is no requirement for any connection between the offence and a threat to public order or safety. So for example, a protester could be barred from an area if a police officer simply thought that in the last 12 hours they had done something as basic as jaywalked or failed to validate their tram ticket,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill also allows police to ask a court to make an order excluding someone who has been subject to multiple ‘move-on’ directions from a particular public place for up to 12 months.

The HRLC is particularly concerned about the potential for the move on powers to be used in protest situations as the Bill winds back existing exceptions for picketing and protesting.

“Police already have a range of powers to arrest, detain and charge people for things like trespass, obstruction, breach of the peace and property damage to name a few. The Government simply hasn’t made the case that these new, broad, sweeping powers are necessary,” said Mr de Kretser.

Under the Bill, a person who breaches a move on order can be arrested and fined over $700. A person who breaches an exclusion order can be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

“Following on from the excessive Queensland G20 legislation, this Bill is another example of governments across the country eroding Australians’ right to free speech. The Bill should not be passed,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Government has acknowledged that the Bill has the potential to restrict the rights to freedom of movement, assembly, expression and association but argues that any restriction is justified under Victoria’s Human Rights Charter. The Committee’s role is to report to the Victorian Parliament on whether the Bill is compatible with human rights.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.

A copy of the Bill can be found here.

Reports on the protest give the numbers attending at variously ‘up to 2000′ (The Herald Sun – an account not entirely free of loaded language) and ‘Several thousand’ (Nine Network). The Victorian Trades Hall Council, which organised the event through its We Are Union network, claimed ‘nearly 4000 unionists and community activists’. The footage immediately below shows the march in its entirety passing a single vantage point, which should give a fairly good idea of its size.[Note - the opening caption reads 'Marching up Bourke Street'. Obviously this should be '...down Russell Street'...]

The march was preceded by a rally at Trades Hall, where it was addressed by Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, and MUA Secretary Kevin Bracken, and ended at Parliament, where there were further speakers:Father Bob Maguire, Anna Brown (Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre), Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik, and Paramedic and Union Delegate Morgyn McCarthy. MC was Luke Hilakari, VTHC Campaigns Industrial Officer.

All these speakers were inspiring, but there was as always something special about Father Bob, and for that reason his speech is recorded here in full (camera work a little shaky at the start, but there was a lot of competition for spaces up the front…):

NOT IN OUR NAME – Rally for Refugee Rights – 2 August 2013

At the 5000-strong rally last Saturday it was decided to hold another protest within a week, and on Friday 2 August somewhere between 1500 and 2000 marched through the streets of Melbourne from Flinders Street station to the old City Square. And this in spite of miserable weather. The rally was organised by Socialist Alternative and RAAF (Renegade Activists Action Force), and supported and endorsed by a long list of organisations and individuals (see the Facebook event page). The opening rally was addressed by musician and activist Ezekiel Ox, Liz Walsh of the Refugee Action Collective, Hazara refugee Mohammad Ali Bagiri, Lea Rumwaropen of the West Papuan community, with contributions from Abe Ape and Muma Doesa, with Newdub Citysound and Trevor Grant of the Tamil Refugee Council winding up at the end of the march. MC overall was Jacob Grech of RAAF. With a starting time of 5.30pm and still some way to go to Spring the light was not too good, and naturally deteriorated as the march progressed, so that the footage of the final stages is rather on the grainy side, but hopefully gives some idea of the mood and size of the event:

Another rally is planned for the same time next Friday, 9 August, with a major event coming up on Saturday 24 August. Details will appear on the Rac-Vic website and Facebook page.

In addition to the footage posted here, which focuses chiefly on the march, there is excellent coverage biased towards the speakers posted on YouTube on the LeftAndcorrect channel – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeacJGdk8v4

The following mainstream media report may be of interest also: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/refugee-rally-disrupts-five-tram-services-in-city/story-fni0fit3-1226690421302

Pussy Riot Solidarity Action – 10 October 2012

We are all Pussy Riot placard at State Library, Melbourne
There was a brief but loud and colourful solidarity action this afternoon at the State Library in Melbourne in support of jailed members of Russian Punk band Pussy Riot. Peter from Anarchist Black Cross Melbourne was MC, and the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective contributed amongst other things an English version of the “Punk’s Prayer” which Pussy Riot members originally performed in an Orthodox church, which in turn led to the arrest of the three women currently appealing their two-year jail sentences.
See http://freepussyriot.org

Free Pussy Riot – Candlelight Vigil Melbourne 17 August 2012

Melbourne’s contribution to the International Day of Solidarity called by supporters of jailed Pussy Riot members awaiting judgement and sentence (now found guilty and sentenced to two years jail – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-17/judge-finds-pussy-riot-guilty-of-hooliganism/4207014) was a candlight vigil at the old GPO building in Bourke Street. Despite the cold and a forecast of hail and thunder there was a good turnout, including quite a good proportion of suitably clad sympathisers:
Balaclava wearing protesters with photos of the accused

Proceedings included the reading of a statement by Marisa of Anarchist Black Cross Melbourne and the announcement of a free punk rock music compilation ‘My Pussy Riot’ by Sydney supporters My Sydney Riot, as well as rap from Izzy Brown.

[Added 31 August - there is a fuller account of the rally by Bec Zajac in newmatilda.com]

Video is on its way (added, see below).

Placard - We are all Pussy Riot
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The mc wore an illuminated balaclava ...
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Leigh announcing the compilation
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The main banners
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Small canine sympathiser
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Protesters line up on the steps
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Lineup with raised fists
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An earlier rally in support of Pussy Riot which we were not able to attend was reported at the time on Melbourne Indymedia. A list of places around the world taking part in today’s action can be found on the Free Pussy Riot website.

Occupy Melbourne Day 7 – Police move in …

See video links at end of post, added later… (23 October – added a few frame captures to the slideshow from the video)(24 October – converted slideshow into gallery. Click on thumbnails for larger images.)
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Occupy Melbourne Manifesto

As mentioned in the previous post, we were not able to get down to the City Square by the 9am deadline, but we were in time (about 11.30am) to see the final stages of the dismantling of the tent city, and the deployment of riot police against the remaining occupiers by this time ‘kettled’ in the centre. This was followed by the use of horses and threat of dogs to clear the rest of the square and subsequently the entire intersection and stretches of Swanston Street northwards beyond the Town Hall and south to some distance that was not clear from where we were.
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Riot police overpower occupier, one has knee on his head...
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Police German Shepherd at protest

With memory cards full we left about 2.15pm, with a standoff continuing in Swanston Street just north of the Town Hall: an announcement on the tram seemed to suggest that this had turned into a march up Bourke Street…

The following images will not appear in any particular order, but should be self-explanatory. As before, the place to go is Occupy Melbourne and related Facebook and Twitter accounts. Not forgetting Melbourne Indymedia, of course.

Added a few hours later: anyone viewing the slideshow gallery above would have realised there was something missing. Hopefully the following videos will fill the gaps:
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Occupy Melbourne ctd – Day 6 and march on BHP Billiton – 20 October 2011

Protesters lined up with banners and placards in front of BHP head office
(It would be advisable to visit the Occupy Melbourne website and related media for the current situation, which is unclear at time of writing …)

Added 8.25am Friday 21 October: according to an Occupy Melbourne media release, notice to leave was served this morning at 6.58am with a deadline of 9am. Melbourne Protests will not be able to get there in time, but no doubt others will…

While preparations for the march were under way there was some police activity in evidence: uniformed and plain clothes officers and even two gentlemen in white shirts, but no indication of imminent action against the occupation, in spite of claims in the tabloid press (eg Lord Mayor gives notice to Occupy Melbourne protesters Herald Sun October 20, 2011 10:59AM) This evening has seen a media release from the occupation:

MEDIA RELEASE – 5:30pm THURSDAY OCTOBER 20th 2011
Victoria Police Speak to OM Protestors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Inspector Bernie Jackson of the Melbourne East police station this afternoon met with Occupy Melbourne protestors today to discuss a potential eviction scenario.

Jackson stressed that Victoria Police does not have the authority on its own to prosecute the eviction, and instead will wait for Melbourne City Council’s instructions on how to proceed.

Inspector Jackson said that once an eviction notice had been served, a “reasonable time” would be given for protestors to voluntarily vacate City Square. “Reasonable time will be given in hours, as in a number of hours,” said Jackson. He qualified: “it’s not going to be in the middle of the night.”

Inspector Jackson further discussed Victoria Police’s likely course of action should an eviction order be issued. When the police arrive on site, protestors will be again asked to leave voluntarily. Anyone who refuses to leave will be forcibly removed from City Square by police officers.

Inspector Jackson told the crowd that he was satisfied with the current state of relations between police and the Occupy Melbourne protestors.

Inspector Jackson’s statement will be discussed at the nightly General Assembly, to be held at 6pm this evening on the north side of City Square.

Jackson was challenged by a number of vocal members of the crowd, including Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe.

Mr Thorpe asked Jackson: “If the by-laws [relating to the Summary Offences Act’s powers for eviction] relate to the Aboriginal people and if so, how?”

Inspector Jackson responded that the police force was required to follow the directions of the Melbourne City Council with regard to the eviction of protestors.

Mr Thorpe later told Occupy Melbourne’s media liaison team that any eviction notice served on the protestors is likely to be immediately challenged in the courts.

http://occupymelbourne.org/media-releases/

Plain clothes and uniformed police at the occupationWhite-collar police
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One protester made a valiant attempt to engage some of the police in a hug, but with no takers:
Protester offering free hugs to police

Otherwise, life appeared to be carrying on normally, with some taking a rather late breakfast (or early lunch):
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Dog in tent eating from plate

The march to BHP set off at a quick march, escorted by about ten police, to chants of ‘BHP BP Shell/ You can all/Go to hell’ and ‘System Change not Climate Change’ amongst others:
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March setting off led by anti-BHP banners
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Head of march - banner 'BHP Billiton undermining your future'
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Banner - 'Bloody Huge Profits'
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There were even more police waiting at the BHP Billiton offices:

Police at BHP office entranceLong line of uniformed police across BHP office frontage
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The protest was organised by Friends of the Earth ACE collective, who had managed to prevail upon Dr Death to attend, standing in for BHP CEO Marius Kloppers:
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Puppet skeleton with gleaming white skullPuppet skeleton with FoE ACE members
Madeline Hudson of FoE ACE read a message sent by Arabunna elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott to the BHP shareholders at the AGM in London, calling on them to reverse the decision to expand the Olympic Dam mine and instead spend their money on something better, and later wrapped up the protest with a rendering of ‘Eat the Rich’ in her character of No-Nukes Calamity Jane:
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Madeline Hudson speakingMadeline as No-Nukes Calamity Jane

Jim Green from Friends of the Earth and Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation also spoke, the latter quoting from a letter sent by Yvonne Margarula of the Mirrar people to UN secretary-general Ban ki-Moon after the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant – fuelled with uranium from Mirrar traditional lands (the text of this letter can be read here). There were also brief addresses from Ben Courtice, Friends of the Earth Renewable Energy Campaigner, Lucho from LASNET, regarding the activities of mining companies in Colombia and Chile, and Susannah, on the proposed gas hub in the Kimberley (see earlier posts on this site, eg here):
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Susannah addressing the protest
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Jim Green speakingDave Sweeney speaking
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Dave Sweeney and protester occupying road
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There was yellow-cake on offer, and leaflets for passers-by:
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Handing out pieces of 'yellow-cake'Handing a leaflet to a passer-by
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The remaining photos are probably self-explanatory. BHP Billiton will be holding its Australian AGM in Melbourne on 17 November, and it will be surprising if there are not protests in Melbourne to mark that occasion also…

See also BHP Billiton Watch.

A shortened version of this report which appears on Melbourne Indymedia, includes two brief media clips that could not be posted here.
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Aboriginal flag in front of BHP office main entrance
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Banner - BHP out of Colombia, Chile
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Reflection of protest in glass ceiling of foyer
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Toxic Traders - banner
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Placard linking BHP and Fukushima
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Puppet of skeleton with skullPuppet of skeleton with skull
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Banners at end of protest
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Another view of banners at end of protest
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Another view of final lineup
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Added 22 October: YouTube video by Jessie Boylan -

The Waste of War – the 10th Anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, 7 October 2011

To mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Renegade Activists prepared a leaflet setting out some of the uses to which $21.3 billion could have been put, this being the sum of increased military spending over the last ten years compared with 2001 levels. A lolly was attached to each “as a taste of what you could have been enjoying”: it was calculated that $21.3 billion would provide “19 712 lollies for every man, woman and child in Australia”.
More seriously, people attending a vigil in the City Square were asked to consider how this sum could have been better spent – or wasted, if they preferred – while two peace activists, Simon Moyle and Jessica Morrison, took turns reading out the names of Australian servicemen and some of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed in the war. There was also an attempt to drop a banner from the balcony of the adjacent hotel, partially thwarted by security guards but still making its point.
Footage from the event, including some of the responses, can be seen on EngageMedia:
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link to video

Click on image for video

Attendance was not large, with the rain not helping, but a good many leaflets were distributed. Among those who did attend were representatives of MAPW Australia, and Greens federal MP Adam Bandt, who also addressed the gathering.

See also Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition

Here is part of the text of the leaflet:

The Waste of War

During the past ten years successive Australian governments have invested in a major expansion of Australia’a offensive military capacity and engaged in two destructive wars, all at an estimated cost of $21.3 billion in increased spending above 2001 levels (Age, 10/9/2011). The results of this have been disastrous, with 29 Australian servicemen losing their lives alongside at least 137 000 Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Millions of refugees have been forced to flee both countries, and despite all the talk of “war on terror” car bombings and terrorist-style attacks on civilians have increased (Guardian, 14/9/2011). Although the waste and scams involved in the government’s insulation scheme were deplorable they pale into insignificance alongside those of the military. Investment in the Collins class submarines, most of which cannot even leave port, has been over $6 billion since 1989 (Australian, 15/9/2011) whilst projected spending on new NH-90 helicopters will top $3 billion despite German Army reports showing they have major defects (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/3/2010).

Spent Properly $23.1 billion could have bought

15712 new school buildings
3 234 133 fully installed solar power systems
6 999 671 cataract operations
1 521 428 571 clean water filter jars for Cambodian villagers
88 750 000 000 meals for the Horn of Africa

Imagine what further cuts to 2001 military spending levels could have also paid for?