Walk for Justice for Refugees – Palm Sunday 13 April

Banner at head of march - Jusitice for Refugees

Growing community awareness of the reality of the current Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers has led to a revival of protest, with attendances at rallies not seen for years. Yesterday’s turnout in Melbourne was variously put at ‘as many as 3,000′ (ABC) to a rather extravagant ’60,000 might be a conservative figure’ (post on the Walk for Justice Facebook page). Asked for my estimate by one of the organisers towards the end of the event I put the figure at ‘close to 10,000′, and there now seems to be fairly general agreement with this, at least on Facebook. Mainstream media, in so far as it reports the event at all, persists in putting it much lower. However that may be, it was an impressive demonstration.*

(The tag cloud doesn’t include items in the pre-2008 archive, so for anyone who might be interested or wants a reminder, here is a list of some earlier refugee rallies in Melbourne as reported here, including two on Palm Sunday:

2002
Rally and March for Refugees – 2 February
Rally for Refugees – Palm Sunday, 24 March
National Day of Action [for refugees] – 23 June
Tampa Day – Rally for Justice – 30 August

2003
World Refugee Day – 22 June

2004

Refugee Hope March – Palm Sunday, 4 April

World Refugee Day – 20 June
)

The format was conventional**: music to warm up, speakers, march, more speakers to wrap up. Music beforehand was provided by Celine Yap, aka Little Foot – folk, Kavisha Mazzella, and Victorian Trade Union Choir; other choirs were stationed at stages along the route of the march down Swanston Street to the gardens opposite the Arts Centre. Speakers included the Rev. Alistair McCrae, past president of the Uniting Church of Australia, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and three young asylum seekers, one of whom read a harrowing letter from a mother in detention… MC was Corinne Grant.

Views of the rally on the State Library lawns:

In the crowd at the State Library:

On the march:

At the end (we were not able to stay for the closing speeches, but left to the sound of Little Foot singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” …):

*Some media reports:

The Age

The Guardian
PressTV

** Though a new feature was the ringing of church bells following special services at the cathedrals and other churches – see the media release below:

City Church Bells to Ring out for Walkers on Palm Sunday

Across Australia in cities and regional towns Palm Sunday is being observed by Faith communities, Academics, School students and ordinary Australians who are deeply disturbed by the current treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

In Melbourne bells from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and St.Michael’s and St.Francis churches will ring out across the city as the WALK FOR JUSTICE FOR REFUGEES begins. The walk is organised by the Refugee Advocacy Network, working with a broad coalition of groups from across all ages, faiths and political persuasions.

Churchgoers from St. Paul’s, St. Patrick’s, Wesley Church and the Welsh Church will converge on the State Library to join the Walk. Church leaders, Professors and academics, Union leaders, School students, Community and Human Rights groups as well as politicians from the Greens and Labor parties will gather at the State Library. Choirs will serenade the walkers at the major intersections along Swanston Street.

Speaking on behalf of the Refugee Advocacy Network, Sister Brigid Arthur said: “We are walking for Justice for Refugees, because ‘stop the boats’ is not a policy worthy of Australia. It’s a cruel way of shirking our moral and legal obligations. People have a right to seek asylum in Australia regardless of how they travel here”.

Sister Brigid went on to say: “If we are genuinely concerned to stop people drowning at sea, then we must provide, safer ways for people to seek asylum in Australia. We must work closely with other countries not to stop the boats, but to protect vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution.”

Australians are calling for an end to the current policies. They are asking that we:

• Stop sending asylum seekers offshore and process claims for asylum here in Australia

• Close Australia’s detention centres

• Arrange for fair & speedy processing of Asylum Claims and Family Reunion

• Stop deporting people to places of danger

• Substantially increase our refugee quota

Walkers for Justice for Refugees will gather on Palm Sunday 13th April from 1.30pm for a 2.00 pm.
Start at the State Library, Cnr Swanston & La Trobe Streets Melbourne before setting off for Princes Bridge.

Contact Sister Brigid Arthur 0408101134
Marie Hapke 0409252673
Pamela Curr 0417517075

‘March in March’ – the Melbourne Rally and March, 16 March 2014

Melbourne responded to the callout (see http://marchinmarchaustralia.org/ and the Melbourne march Facebook page) with one of the largest rallies since the 2003 protests against the war in Iraq. Figures varied widely, as usual, but we are rather inclined to the upper end of the claims, or towards 50,000. It was also one of the most varied, and in recognition of this we are posting the largest selection of images so far on this site for one event. There is also a choice of thumbnail/gallery or slideshow, the latter comprising lower resolution copies. It may be in order to post a few separately:

Part of crowd at start of rally

A very small part of the rally at the State Library

Black and red flag

The holder of this flag told us it was 45 years old – dating back to moratorium days

Placard in German - 'These crimes, your blame'

International contribution

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Ongoing Vigil for Asylum Seekers in Detention – Casselden Place 24 February – 25 March 2014

Protesters outside Department of Immigration Melbourne

In response to the murder of Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in the detention centre on Manus Island last week a small group of protesters has established an ongoing vigil outside the Department of Immigration office at Casselden Place. While determined to maintain the action regardless, they would welcome support and ideally for others to join them. There is a Facebook page here.

Tomorrow, Saturday 1 March, a rally is planned at the State Library at 1pm – see notice here.

The Facebook page of the Refugee Action Collective-Victoria carries links to background material and continuing coverage.

Another view of the vigil

TELL RUDD, TELL ABBOTT – NO PNG ‘SOLUTION’ ’ – LET THE REFUGEES IN! – Rally and March, 24 August 2013

Part of crowd filling lawns at State Library
Between two and three thousand rallied at the State Library on Saturday 24 August (effectively this year’s Tampa Day, although as far as we could tell, no-one made this explicit) to reject and condemn the PNG “Solution” of Kevin Rudd and the even more extreme policies of the likely next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. (The report by Socialist Alternative gives the figure on the march at “more than 2,000″ whereas news.com talks of “a few hundred protesters gathered outside the State Library”. Not all who attended the rally joined the march – ourselves included – so the discrepancy in these numbers is all the more marked. The accompanying images should give an idea at least of the extent to which the lawns in front of the library were occupied.)

Another view of the rally

Viewing the rally from the north

Placard exposing role of private companies Serco and G4S in detention centres
This speaks for itself; on a related note, two days earlier, a number of protesters from Beyond Borders entered the offices of Toll Group “to protest the company’s commercial involvement in the offshore processing of refugees and asylum seekers.” They released a statement and video of the action.

The Facebook event page for Saturday’s rally and march can be found here. As already mentioned, we were not able to follow the march, which was quite lengthy, so the photos below are from the rally only. Apart from the speakers, the focus is on the range of banners and placards, not forgetting of course the essential dogs:

Small dog rolling on its back on the grass before the rally
Large dog waiting at end of rally

Amanda from Refugee Action Collective was MC

Amanda from Refugee Action Collective was MC

Pamela Curr

Pamela Curr

Alex Bhathal of The Greens

Alex Bhathal of The Greens

Former Nauru detainee, Hazara Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Former Nauru detainee, Hazara Mohammad Ali Baqiri


Following the protest actions of 2-4 August an article appeared on the World Socialist Website which may be of interest for its critique of the position of especially The Greens and what it calls “the pseudo-left organisations, Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative”. (It should be noted, however, that this site is not affiliated to any group whatsoever – though it would be disingenuous to disavow a certain leaning …) The WSW site also carries details of the disturbing case of a public servant facing dismissal for privately posting comments critical of the government’s policies – http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/08/23/free-a23.html.

At time of writing there is no word of more rallies planned before the 7 September election, but two events were being circulated on Saturday: RAC (Vic) are holding a “Live Wire for Refugees” at Federation Square starting at noon on Saturday 31 August and ending at noon on Sunday 1 September – “a 24-hour non-stop community speakout for refugee rights” (details from livewireforrefugees@gmail.com), and the Refugee Advocacy Network have organised a forum “Is Australia in crisis? DO HUMAN RIGHTS MATTER?” at Kaleide theatre, RMIT on Monday 26 August at 6.30pm. Details at http://refugeeadvocacynetwork.org/human-rights-asylum-seekers-a-forum-monday-26-august-630pm/.

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

Rally for Refugees – 27 July (post updated 29 July)

head-of-march

See http://rac-vic.org/?p=520 for details of this rally. Reports to follow.* [Added 2 August: there is a report plus audio files from the event on The Apple Core] Here are a few photos from the rally at the State Library up to the start of the march:

*So far (as at Monday 29 July) we can find only two reports online: on the website of Socialist Alternative, and as part of an article on Manus Island on the 7News site.
The SA account rightly described this as “the biggest refugee rights action in a decade” – the last one of comparable size would have been the Palm Sunday “Refugee Hope March” of 4 April 2004 – but their estimate of ‘more than5000′ may have been a little high. Apart from the speakers quoted by SA there were also The Greens Adam Bandt and former detainee Ali Bakhtiavandi, as well as singer-songwriter and human rights activist Les Thomas with his guitar (see http://lettersforranjini.com/free-ranjini-song-by-les-thomas/). As can be seen from the accompanying photos, there was a prominent Anarchist showing, and amongst the stalls there were the Socialist Party and Solidarity, as well as the Refugee Action Collective and – a first for this blog – the Wikileaks Party.

For this update we have added a few more photos, including another dog.

World Refugee Day Rally – 16 June

Refugees are Welcome - banner of Refugee Advocacy Network

We were able to manage only a short stay at this year’s rally, and had to miss the annual march to the EMERGE Festival at Fitzroy Town Hall. Numbers at the rally were respectable but not large – one media report, on ninemsn, refers to ‘hundreds’; The Age says ’1000′ – and there was a general feeling of disbelief that it should still be necessary to hold these protests now twelve years after the Tampa and under a Labor government at that. The Greens were well represented*, with Adam Bandt one of the speakers, along with Misha Coleman in her capacity also as executive officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, and Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (Facebook) was MC. Music beforehand and during the march was provided by The Conch, and Les Thomas sang a song written for ASIO victim Ranjini.
*Flags of the ANF were also visible, but otherwise not much in the way of union support.

A few photos from the rally outside the Melbourne Museum, mostly self-explanatory:

'Hope Boat' - No Crime to Seek Asylum
'Hope Boat ' - Let Them Come

Pamela Curr and Misha Coleman

Pamela Curr and Misha Coleman (at microphone)

Les Thomas singing

Les Thomas

Banner with message from refugees deemed a threat by ASIO

Socialist Party stall

Socialist Party stall – https://www.facebook.com/SocialistPartyAustralia. Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative members were also active at the rally.

Looking over part of the rally during the speeches

Banner of Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees

Banner of Ballarat

Ballarat’s Circle of Friends / Australian Refugee Association – https://www.facebook.com/CircleOfFriendsBallarat

Dog in rainbow jacket

Also showing support