This was the 9th vigil and numbers were down a little, for whatever reasons, though still close to 30. The main speakers were Colin Mitchell from Civil Rights Defence, who began with a reminder of the upcoming National Day of Protest in support of David Hicks on 21st April (State Library, 1pm) and then went on to develop the thesis that David Hicks – and Jack Thomas, the Barwon 13, Lodhi, Brigitte and the rest – were essentially being used for politocal ends by the likes of John Howard, with the complicity of the Labor Party, and that the campaign in support of David Hicks should actually be seen as part of a wider campaign in defence of basic human rights and civil liberties. Hicks, Thomas and the rest were ‘sacrifices in John Howard’s war on terror’. Control orders such as that imposed on Jack Thomas even after he had been found not guilty were a dangerous step towards a police state. He made a point also that was taken up by Mick Armstrong later, namely the part played by public pressure in bringing about the transformation of John Howard’s position to where he is suddenly ‘angry’ with Bush and the US over the length of David Hicks’ detention. Hence also the importance of these vigils and rallies such as the two mentioned here …
Mick Armstrong from Stop the War Coalition used the opportunity to urge everyone to attend the anti-war rally tomorrow (Saturday, 12 noon at the State Library). He pointed the contrast between the alleged aims of the invasion and war on Iraq with the horrors still being inflicted on the population, with as many as 650 000 deaths of Iraqi civilians and the newly-revealed callous treatment of American military casualties by their own government. He saw support for the war collapsing as people were able to see for themselves what was being done, and attacked the Labor Party for its ‘me too-ism’ in regard to Howard’s recent hint of sending more troops to Afghanistan.
In between these two speakers, Maree from the Refugee Action Collective said a little about the new Guantanamo Bay-style detention centre nearing completion on Christmas Island. She announced a public forum being arranged by RAC, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the National Council of Churches at RMIT’s Kaleide theatre on Thursday March 28 at 7pm, and encouraged people to sign a petition calling for a halt to construction of the centre.
Gerard from CRD wrapped up the vigil proper with a reminder that CRD meets every Tuesday at Trades Hall at 6.30 pm and needs more active supporters. The meeting on March 27 will be a legal briefing on the case of the Barwon 13, and then there is also the NDA on April 21.
At this point there was an unscheduled addition to the program: a rendering of a newly-composed song, still a bit rough at the edges, along the lines of “when David Hicks comes home again, hurrah, hurrah …” It was well received, and hopefully at a later date it will be possible to get a useable recording.