Anti-abortionists on the march — face-off at Parliament House, 8 October 2011

Banner of CWRR

Under the banner of “March for the Babies“, anti-abortionists massed at Parliament House as part of a ramped-up campaign to force the repeal of laws in Victoria decriminalising abortion. (See for example The Age, 17 April 2010.) As in previous years they were met on the steps of Parliament House by a much smaller but equally determined number of pro-choice campaigners, including members of Radical Women, the Sex Party and representatives of Albury Choice, as well as unionists and members of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Australia Asia Worker Links, the counter-rally being organised as before by the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights (CWRR).

Police had divided the front steps of Parliament House into two sections separated by a chain in preparation for the opposing events, and were there in substantial numbers, including initially with horses. The pro-choice rally began at midday, with the “March for the Babies” not expected to arrive until about three, and filled the time with speeches, chants, and a mini-march around the block. MCs were Anthea Stutter and Peter Murray of FSP:
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Anthea and Peter conferring
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and the speakers included Marisa Sposaro of Radical Women, who discussed the issue of reproductive rights for women with disability (see also video from the ‘clinic defence’ on 23 July 2011):
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Marisa
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Kieran Bennett from Albury Choice (also represented on the July 23 video):
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Kieran
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Susie Reid, Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Wangaratta, who discussed issues for women in rural areas:
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Susie
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Cecilia Judge, Australian Services Union workplace delegate:
Cecilia
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Jade Eckhaus, Queer Officer, National Union of Students and Equal Love campaign:
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Jade
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Dandy Nicholson, Feminist Mothers Group:
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Dandy
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and Marinda Davis, tertiary student:
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Marinda, flanked by Sex Party placards
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Two women also spoke of their own experiences:
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Young woman describes her experiences
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One of the pro-choice marshals describing her experiences
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As expected, the anti-abortionists had mobilised far greater numbers for the occasion than the pro-choice – this being the reverse of the position in the community at large, as one speaker pointed out. The two rallies were mostly kept apart by a line of police and marshals on both sides, with only a few though persistent attempts by marchers to push into the pro-choice area:
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Man in pink floral shirt tries to push into pro-choice group
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To some extent the confrontation became a battle of PA power, and the din – which continued for the best part of two hours – was obviously painful for those police who hadn’t thought to provide themselves with ear plugs. In the event, both sides were probably able to hear their own speakers, but the “March for the Babies” were certainly forced to hear rather more of their opponents’ chants than they would have wished, and their own speakers were almost never audible on the pro-choice side of the divide.
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The above photos are a selection from the slideshow below. There is also footage of the event on EngageMedia, see link below.

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Head of "March for the Babies"

Click on image for video

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International Women’s Day 2011 in Melbourne – 8 March (and Jenny Macklin picket)

Main banner - 'Pay up Now!'

Pay Justice Action, ‘a grassroots initiative of the Freedom Socialist Party‘ organised a rally and march to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. At about the same time, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, was due to address an IWD cocktail party at the Victorian Trades Hall …

The Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective organised a snap picket of the Trades Hall event, taking the view that ‘the hypocrisy of the Minister of Indigenous Affairs speaking at this event, whilst administering a program that is continuing the oppression of Aboriginal women, is not something we can let go without criticism…and action!’, and some participants in the rally and march later joined them. A police detail ensured protesters were not able to enter the building, but they made their presence heard, and there was a confrontation when the Minister arrived. See further below.

MC at the rally was Alison Thorne, Public Sector unionist and member of the FSP, who began by acknowledging the First Peoples of Australia and especially the ‘long line of women Aboriginal leaders.’ Having outlined the history of the Day she handed the microphone to Debbie Brennan, also of the FSP and an ASU delegate, who took up the theme of equal pay for women, and its implications – the bottom would fall out of the profit system if big business had to pay for women’s at present unpaid work.

Alison Thorne speaking

Alison Thorne

Debbie Brennan speaking

Debbie Brennan

Jasmine Ali speaking

Jasmine Ali


Jasmine Ali of the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective spoke next, attacking the Basics Card (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5nrW8sA6_Q) and particularly discrimination against Aboriginal women in the Northern Territory faced by the Intervention; she also read from an open letter sent to the Prime Minister from Indigenous women at the Defending Indigenous Rights Conference Alice Springs 6-9 July 2010:

Jasmine reading the letter

Reading the letter

Sally Goldner speaking

Sally Goldner

Last speaker before the march set off was Sally Goldner (see http://www.3cr.org.au/outofthepan), focussing on discrimination faced by transgender people, especially in the context of Centrelink, where absence of federal anti-discrimination legislation meant that outcomes were in effect a lottery dependent on the personal attitudes of staff.

More at the rally:

"Let the ruling classes tremble ..." banner at one of the stalls

At one of the stalls

Placards demanding equality for women in Iran

An Iranian contingent

Placard - Community sector wages stink!

One of many placards

The march set off down Swanston Street on its way to Parliament House, where there were to be more speakers…
Main banner at head of march

Behind the sound truck

In the meantime, at Trades Hall members and supporters of MAIC had been picketing the entrance and handing leaflets to people arriving for the cocktail party. As already mentioned, police were on hand to prevent any unauthorised entry, and protesters were forced to resort to chanting beneath the windows of the bar, but ironically after a while the party-goers were themselves forced out of the building by a fire alarm, and were then exposed directly to the protest. (It appears there was no actual fire, but a damaged sprinkler in the bookshop triggered the alarm, as well as causing considerable flooding in the basement.) Jenny Macklin herself had not arrived at this point, but was confronted when she did. Regrettably,there was no-one on hand with a camera at this stage.*

Picket at the entrance to Trades Hall

Copy of alcohol and pornography ban notice from NT

Closeup of one of the notices posted around the entrance

Handing leaflets to people arriving

Protesters shouting up to the open windows

Confronting the party-goers evacuated from the building

*A comment posted to Melbourne Indymedia describes what happened later, with some pointed observations on ‘the sorry state of the Australian union movement’ …

Public Speakout – Mumia is Innocent, Free all Political Prisoners! – 10 April 2010

Poster advertising the rally

Posters featuring “Lynne Stewart, radical lawyer, jailed in New York for fearlessly defending her client; Palm Island Indigenous leader, Lex Wotton, jailed in Queensland for leading a protest against a police killing; Leonard Peltier, Native American elder, framed by the FBI and held in numerous U.S. prisons for 33 years; Mumia Abu-Jamal, framed by racist police and currently on death row in Pennsylvania” formed a backdrop to a rally called by Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), and Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) on Saturday.

Protesters gathering before the rally

Protesters gathering before the rally

Greg of MACG gave a summary of Mumia’s trial and subsequent appeals (see e.g., the 2006 pamphlet from Partisan Defense Committee):

Greg addressing the rally

while Peter Murray of Freedom Socialist Party argued that while petitions and letters to politicians are all very well, only concerted actions such as that of the longshoremen on the West Coast of the US have the power to actually get him out of jail (see account in The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal):

Peter Murray speaking, Lex Wotton banner in background

They were followed by two speakers from ABC:Marisa Sposaro, who gave an account of that organisation’s work (see the ABC blog) and the 3CR Community Radio program Doin Time, and Peter, who touched on the case of long-term prisoner Jaan Laaman, with particular reference to his podcasts, as well as Mumia’s “Radio Essays”:

Marisa speaking

Peter from ABC speaking

The rally was endorsed by ISJA (Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne), which has, of course, been prominent in the campaigns against Aboriginal deaths in custody and on behalf of imprisoned Palm Island elder Lex Wotton – an ISJA banner hung behind the speakers at the rally. ISJA was represented on this occasion by Cheryl Kaulfuss:

Cheryl speaking

Alison Thorne spoke on behalf of Radical Women, who also endorsed the rally; referring back to the case of the Rosenbergs, executed for espionage in 1953, she repeated the point made by others also, that it was not that the legal system failed in such cases, but rather that it was doing exactly what it was meant to do, suppress dissent and uphold the capitalist system (see http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/816):

Alison Thorne speaking, Lex Wotton banner behind

She also read a stirring poem by feminist revolutionary Nellie Wong (see http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/276).

Another group supporting the rally was The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist):

Spartacist placards

Spokesperson Neil rejected the illusion of appeals to Royal Commissions and governments, instancing the failure of the commission into black deaths in custody; the only effective answer is mass protest through the mobilisation of the labour force ( a pamphlet handed out at the rally can be found at the website of the Partisan Defence League, and there is a detailed account of an earlier protest meeting in support of Mumia in Australasian Spartacist No. 201:

Neil from ICL