Wintry weather – and an alarming but unrealised weather forecast – kept the numbers down, but there was still a very sizeable turnout in Melbourne – upwards of 2000. Prominent was a contingent of Iranian marchers, including hunger strikers joining the rally from their protest outside the French consulate (see media release below). The march made its way down Swanston Street to the banks of the Yarra in time to welcome some boatloads of refugees who happened to be arriving just then – a much warmer welcome than the one laid on by the government. The final stage at Federation Square saw the launch by Arnold Zable of the Act of Humanity project of the Coalition to End the Suffering – for more on which please visit the website of Fitzroy Learning Network. [See also http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/31/1062268467662.html – added 17 Dec 2012. The original links here are no longer active.]
Part of the crowd at the State Library before the march – at the front is a coffin commemorating those who have lost their lives attempting to reach asylum in Australia, especially the victims of the SIEVX. Alongside the coffin were placards with testimonies from survivors, and photos of some of the drowned:Death by Deterrence. Members of the Refugee Action Collective later escorted the coffin as pall bearers during the march.
Media Release 12 midday June 21st 2003
Sit-in and hunger strike begins today outside French Consulate
People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) supporters in Melbourne will start a sit-in and hunger strike at midday today Saturday, June 21 outside the French Consulate, 150 Queen Street, Melbourne. They are protesting at the action of the French government who are holding Ms. Maryam Rajavi and other members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, in detention in France and will continue their hunger strike until the release of all 26 PMOI members.
We consider their arrest and incarceration an egregious injustice and an affront to basic democratic principles, says Jahangir Hosseini, a Melbourne supporter.
We will also participate in the World Refugee Day demonstration in Melbourne. PMOI supporters and other Iranian activists will gather outside the French Consulate on Sunday, June 22, at 11 AM and will rally to the State Library via the British Consulate-General, 90 Collins Street. We ask the UK government to secure the return of the 2 kidnapped PMOI activists, who are British residents, currently in captivity and under torture in Iran. An urgent international appeal has been mounted by Amnesty seeking their immediate release and expressing grave concern over their welfare.
Contact: Jahangir Hosseini Ph 0413 372 214
From the rally and march:
Lurking at the back of the rally could be seen the evil genius of government policy; there was no sign of his chief agent:
Before the rally, Reds and Greens from Darebin were among many groups who assembled locally before travelling into the city:
The march was led by drummers, accompanying the Iranian protesters and a number of portable detention centres:
These marchers evidently recognised the photographer: