Ruddock blockade – 7 May
The University of Melbourne Centre for Public Policy announced a forum at 5pm on May 7, titled Refugees in Australia: Key Ethical and Practical Issues. Philip Ruddock was to give “The Government View: Ethics and Current Policy Issue”.
The event was cancelled at the last minute, allegedly for administrative reasons, but about 100 people turned out for the non-blockade, some because they hadn’t heard the news, others because they had and wanted to mark the occasion …
Here is the original call to action issued by No One Is Illegal:
with our bodies against the camps
link arms against racism and neoliberalism
Capital moves, while the pass laws remain
As the movement against mandatory detention of people seeking refuge grows, there has been much focus on both the treatment of people inside the concentration camps and on what should constitute the proper grounds for refugee status. Most in the movement would say more people should be given refuge, others say refugees should be treated differently. Essentially these demands revolve around debates over who is a ‘bona fide’ refugee and who is not.
But we wish to pose different questions. How can a person be illegal? Why can people not go where they choose? Why does the movement of capital grow, while the movement of people become more difficult?
People inside the camps have answered these questions. They have moved. They resist with the only thing they have control over – their bodies – in protests, hunger strikes and acts of self harm. In this sense our campaign outside the camps should take its lead from them.
The exploitation of the world’s multitudes is only made possible by our restriction behind borders. Capital derives its profit and power from the theft and plundering of the land and the exploitation of labour. Once this was organised by the colonial powers of Europe, now they are joined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and Washington with their structural adjustment programs and free-trade treaties. This means massive impoverishment of the global South, displacing millions from their homes and making the survival of billions harder and harder. Some countries are economically devastated, in others there is war and genocide. As the world is homogenised, the laws we live by are increasingly the values of the market place. And while there are few borders for trade and the movement of capital, restrictions on the movement of people are tightened.
Nevertheless, millions of people cross borders in search of survival or a better life. Few make it to the countries of the North. Many die: swallowed by the ocean, suffocating in trucks, shot by border guards. Others are turned back at the walls of Fortress Europe, the wire of the Mexican border,herded back on to planes at Australian airports. Risking their lives some make it, but though they have their lives, they are denied livelihood, stigmatised as ‘illegals’. As capitalism marches on all over the world, more and more people will be left with nothing; more will be forced to move.
So we are faced with a choice. A global society organised as a Great Confinement or one in which people are free to move. One in which people are trapped, free for capitalism to exploit them, without rights, without freedom. Or one in which our diversity, communication and creativity are unbounded. Any discussion of refugees must at its core be an examination of this choice, of capitalism.
The campaign to free refugees from detention centres must include the demand for freedom of movement for people everywhere, for we are all people of the world, citizens of the coming global community.
They have moved. They have crossed mountains, rivers and oceans. Risking their lives they have come. Asking for nothing except a place to exist, for dignity.
Instead they are concentrated and interned in prison camps. Thousands of people locked up without trial in the desert camps of Woomera, Port Hedland and Curtin, in the suburbs of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. If eventually released they are treated as second-class citizens, with few rights, subject to racism and legalised discrimination, forced to subsist on the margins of society. They are made illegal, without rights, non-persons.
But surely, we say “someone can not be illegal; they can break the law, commit illegal acts, but they are not illegal?” Yet, governments persist in their attempt to make them illegal because someone who is illegal has no rights, because someone made illegal does not exist. If a person is denied their humanity then anything becomes possible, their mistreatment or even death is outside “the law”. They are made invisible.
Faced with their own disappearance, people inside and outside the camps have resisted with the only means they have left: their bodies. Hunger strikes, sewing their mouths together, pushing against the wire, enduring solitary confinement, wearing the blows of a baton or the injection of drugs, even setting their own bodies alight. With their bodies, with their resistance they have fought their invisibility, their illegality.
With our bodies, we propose to join their struggle. We invite you to link arms with our brothers and sisters inside and outside the camps.
On May 7, the Minister for Immigration will try to speak at the Centre of Public Policy. We will place our bodies between him and the meeting. Our civil disobedience will form a human chain across all entrances to the forum. Our chain, like all borders, will not be completely closed. People attending the meeting will be free to pass. All will have a visa except Philip Ruddock.
We are citizens of the coming global society. We will stand in solidarity for the dignity of humanity, against neoliberalism and all its borders and cages.
Full rights for all migrants : Close the camps : Open the Borders
No One Is Illegal
April 24, 2001
(Taken from the xborder website)
Fairwear targets Sussan – 5 September
Supporters of the FairWear campaign on behalf of exploited outworkers in the garment industry rallied outside the headquarters of Sussan today with banners and a huge mobile billboard parodying the company’s well-known slogan. (The billboard was later moved to a spot outside Trades Hall in Lygon Street and remained there for several weeks. The intention had been to drive it around town, but it proved too heavy for the vehicles available …)
Sussan had won the doubtful distinction of being selected earlier in the year as the first target of the Stinky Store campaign. Here is part of a media release from Pamela Curr, FairWear co-ordinator:
The Homeworkers Code of Practice and the No Sweat Shop Label was officially
launched on March 8, 2001. Retailers and manufacturers who have signed the
Code have been given information and invited to become accredited under the
Code. Accredited companies have to provide details of their contracting
chain and will be monitored to ensure that workers are receiving their
legal pay and entitlements. It would give them have permission to use the
label in their garments and therefore provide a sign to consumers of the
garments produced under fair conditions. So far only 2 companies have
become accredited: Australian Defense Apparel and Resort Report.
Companies like Sussan refuse to become accredited, refuse to write to their
suppliers encouraging them to become accredited and refuse to support the
label in their garments.
Sussan is a symbol of all the stinky stores, consumers are ready to support
the no-sweat shop label initiative we just need the retailers and
manufacturers to play their part in becoming NO SWEAT SHOPs.
FASHION STINKS WHEN ITS MADE IN SWEATSHOPS – DEMAND THIS LABEL
No Sweat Shop.
Check web site: http://www.nosweatshoplabel.com
Peace Rally – 16 September
From Green Left Weekly*:
A hastily called vigil for peace attracted over 2000 to the City Square in central Melbourne on September 16, far outstripping organisers’ expectations, Graham Matthews reports.
The vigil, called by a number of church, environment and union groups on September 12, was built with blanket advertising on ABC radio in the preceding day.
The gathering was addressed by Bishop Deakin from the Catholic church and representatives from the Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim faiths, all of whom decried the loss of life incurred in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but also warned against the possibility of war. Speakers also attacked the growing evidence of racism against Muslims in Australia, and called for tolerance.
Those present wanted a “calm and measured response” to the bombing of the World Trade Center, according to Jacob Grech, one of the vigil organisers.
Anti-war Rally – 30 September
From Green Left Weekly*:
… 2000 people … turned out for an anti-war protest on September 30, organised by ANSWER. This was the biggest yet in a series of weekly Sunday protests since US President George Bush announced plans for a “war on terrorism”.
Participants in the September 30 rally were drawn largely from the peace movement of previous decades — those who had protested against the Vietnam War and against the 1991 Gulf War. Muslim and Arab migrants only had a small presence.
The rally was addressed by a long list of speakers, including Scott Kinnear, Senate candidate for the Greens, who read out sections of Bob Brown’s recent speech to the National Press Club and reiterated his party’s support for any military strikes to be conducted under UN auspices.
Sol Salby from the Australian Jewish Democratic Society told the rally: “There are good reasons for the people of the Arab and Muslim world to hate the US. You only have to look at Iraq”, referring to the devastating effect of 10 years of sanctions. “We want something done about terrorism”, he added, but “we want to do it by removing its causes. Removing the sanctions from Iraq and finding a peaceful solution for the Palestinians would do more to eliminate terrorism than any war.” Salby also called on the Australian government to change its refugee policy and take in more of those fleeing the terror in Afghanistan.
Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Batman, Jackie Lynch, received rousing applause when she explained: “In Australia the Socialist Alliance is the only party running in the upcoming election to completely oppose the war. We don’t think these terrorist attacks will be deterred by state terror. We don’t think that people who are Middle Eastern or Islamic are to blame for terrorism. We stand in solidarity with all working people of the world, including those in the US and Afghanistan, as they struggle for justice and against oppression.”
Other speakers included former Labor MP Joan Coxsedge, who quit the ALP recently and has since been an anti-war campaigner; Zimbabwean socialist Tafadzwa Choto; Alex Kouttab from the Australian Arabic Council; Democrats Senator Lyn Allison; Dr Nouria Salehi from the Afghan Support Group; Bishop Hilton Deakin, Catholic vicar-general of Melbourne; and Maya Abraham from the Victorian TAFE Students and Apprentices Network.
While a significant number of people had left by the time the two-hour list of speakers had concluded, many people remained to march through the city to the steps of Parliament House, led by a loud and lively contingent carrying Socialist Alliance banners.
Anti-War rally – 3 October
RAC had planned to set up a Mobile Detention Centre at the anti-war rally in the City Square, but a certain Superintendent Ian Winn, backed up by several heavies, made it his business to prevent this. RAC supporters were nonetheless active distributing leaflets in the large crowd. The rally marched to Parliament House via the Department of Immigration’s office at Casselden Place, where a RAC speaker addressed the still-large crowd:
From Green Left Weekly:*
10 October 2001
BY SARAH STEPHEN
MELBOURNE — October 3 was to be the first day of the three-day blockade of the Commonwealth Business Forum — the O3 blockade. But in the wake of Howard’s cancellation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and with it the CBF, activists rapidly turned campaigning activity for the day to focus on an anti-war people’s march.
Thousands of people, overwhelmingly young, responded to the call converging on City Square late in the afternoon of October 3. Many protesters came with peace symbols painted on their faces. Anti-war slogans were chalked on the footpaths around City Square.
Information stalls bustled with activity as people bought badges, T-shirts and left-wing newspapers. More than one anti-war veteran was heard to comment that the march felt like the days of the anti-Vietnam War movement all over again.
The crowd was entertained by people from the Sudanese Australia International Activist Group. Following a speech by the group’s spokesperson, Aguil Bershut Deng, about the struggles of the south Sudanese people, protesters were encouraged to join in with Sudanese singing and dancing.
As the rally began, so did a short rain shower. One of the MCs, Tim Gooden, told the crowd: “There’s a bit of rain out there, but the people of Afghanistan are preparing for bullets and bombs, so stand your ground in solidarity with the people overseas and against the onslaught the US is preparing for them.”
Zimbabwean socialist Tafadzwa Choto told the crowd: “In Zimbabwe we are preparing for mass protests outside the UK and US embassies when bombing starts. Not only is it time to say no to war, but also to say cancel Third World debt. War will not end terrorism. It will actually increase the anger that is within people today. We should say no to war, but we can go further and say no to the system that creates war, the system that creates refugees, the system that creates racism, to do away with the capitalist system and build a new system, a socialist society. We have already started building that society and we invite you to do the same. Another world is possible!”
Hashmat Moslih from the Islamic Society of RMIT told the crowd: “Tell them that your jet fighters, your cruise missiles, your nuclear weapons did not deter the attacks on innocent people, nor will they in the future.”
The crowd also heard short speeches from Dave Kerin from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) and Sarah Peart from the O3 Alliance before marching through the city.
As the march proceeded the number of protesters swelled to more than 1500. Among the most popular chants were “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war; five, six, seven, eight, we will not cooperate” and “Refugees yes, racism no, Bush’s war has got to go.”
The marchers stopped outside the immigration department offices to hear speeches from Sarah Dastoli from the Refugee Action Collective, who had recently visited the Woomera detention centre; Surma Hadid from the International Federation of Iranian Refugees; and Jorge Jorquera from the Socialist Alliance.
The march finished, two hours after it had started, and still with the same passion, at the steps of Parliament House where Damien Lawson from the Western Suburbs Community Legal Service spoke about moves to drastically attack civil liberties in Australia in response to the terrorist attacks in the US.
Sweat Free Santa visits David Jones – 7 December
(This report was originally posted to Melbourne Indymedia. Background material will be found on the website of the FairWear campaign – http://www.fairwear.org.au.)
Sweat Free Santa & helpers invaded David Jones store in Bourke St today in a shamefully unsuccessful search for clothes with the No Sweat label, before treating shoppers to a concert of Sweat Free carols…(the tunes were well known, but the words may have sounded less familiar).
Rally against War and Racism – 9 December (marking International Human Rights Day)
The event was initiated by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and endorsed by, amongst many others, Friends of the Earth, the Greens, Socialist Alliance, Melbourne University Arabic Culture Club, and the NUS. The focus naturally was on ending the war on Afghanistan, but there was also a strong emphasis on justice for refugees. The rally was followed by a march through the CBD ending at the Treasury Gardens.
For a comprehensive survey of anti-war protests in Melbourne in this period visit Takver’s Initiative.
From Green Left Weekly*:
Graham Matthews reports that 700-1000 people gathered on December 9 at Melbourne’s City Square to protest the war in Afghanistan, and to call on the Australian government to welcome the refugees of war.
Sheik Issa Mussa, Somalian Islamic leader, spoke boldly of his opposition to the war. “It is becoming common to suggest that Islam is friendly to crime and terrorism”, he said.
Refugee rights and Greens activist Pamela Curr reflected on the inhumanity of the Australian government’s refugee policy. “Any country where human rights are under attack risks its peace”, she said. A lively and colourful march through town to the Treasury Gardens followed the speakers.
“The two pilots mentioned below typify American pilots bombing Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Littrell, pilots a B-52H and logged 5,000 hours in combat missions over Afghanistan, dropping thousands of bombs. Littrell says the close air support his massive bomber provides to US (occupation) forces on the ground “should give them a piece [sic]of mind that America hasn’t forgotten them, and nothing shows resolve better than a 2,000-pound JDAM bomb.” U.S. Navy pilot, Lt. Ashley, who participated in the early bombing of Afghanistan in an F-14 Tomcat, fondly remembers, “I was smiling: I had dropped my bombs. They hit.” In mid-October 2001, an officer on board the US aircraft carrier, Carl Vinson, described the use of bombs dropped by American B-52H bombers based on the “British” Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia. “A 2,000 lb bomb,” he said, “no matter where you drop it, is a significant emotional event for anyone within a square mile.” (15) “Wall Street”, another B-52 pilot, who flew 19 missions over Afghanistan put it slightly differently, “when they gave us the coordinates, we’d kill whatever they told us to.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Littrell
U.S. Navy Lt. Ashley “Mumbles”
*See note here