Zombies and Melbourne’s G(eneral) D(ay) of P(rotest) – 12 October 2013

There was much to do in Melbourne on Saturday: the annual Zombie Shuffle was brought forward by two weeks; opponents of the planned destruction of one of Melbourne’s most important live music venues rallied at Parliament Reserve; Melbourne took its part in a worldwide March against Monsanto; and there was the annual March for Babies by anti-abortionists, countered by pro-choice supporters. It was obviously not possible to attend the whole of each of these events, since they overlapped, but we did our best, and the weather helped for once.

Save the Palace

Placards against the planned development

The Palace on Bourke Street, formerly the Metro

The plan is to turn this into a luxury hotel

If organisers were hoping for thousands to turn out they will have been disappointed, but given the competing events it was quite respectable:

View of rally in Parliament Reserve

MC was Julia Zemiro of RocKwiz and other fame:

Juia Zemiro

The Save the Palace Facebook and event pages contain extensive background material and links to a petition, and the campaign has also been covered in the music world, for example by Tone Deaf and faster louder (see also Music Feeds and this in the Sydney Morning Herald

Later in the day this was the frontage of the theatre:

Placards fixed to entrance of theatre

The original venue for the above rally was announced as the steps of Parliament House, but that had already been earmarked for the end of the annual March for Babies

Pro-choice supporters on steps of Parliament House

Pro-choice placards

As in previous years, police had divided the area in front of Parliament House with a view to keeping the two sides well apart, and by 12.30 the side reserved for Pro-Choice supporters was well occupied, while Pro-Life supporters were assembling in the Treasury Gardens prior to marching through the CBD to their side of the steps, where a PA system and banners had been prepared:

Pro-Lifers assembling in Treasury Gardens

One of the anti-abortion placards

The Pro-Life side of the steps before arrival of march

(The last photo above was taken somewhat later than the others, on the way to the March against Monsanto, of which more later.)

We had made the decision to move on to the Zombie shuffle, so missed most of what followed. It seems the Pro-Choice supporters marched to meet the Pro-Life march and there was a confrontation, variously reported in the mainstream media (for example http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/2013/10/12/18/50/mp-says-he-was-assaulted-in-abortion-rally and http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/antiabortion-protesters-in-clash-during-cbd-rally/story-fni0fee2-1226738911785) and the respective Facebook pages. After this it seems the bulk of the counter-marchers dispersed, while the rest continued to heckle the marchers and occupy the head of the march:

Pro-choice protester with placard at head of pro-life march

(This was in Bourke Street heading towards Parliament House; we had been at the Monsanto protest and followed its march down Swanston Street this far, before making for Parliament House just in time to catch up with the March for Babies.)
Opposing placards on the march

As the march neared the top end of Bourke Street, the Pro-Choice activists broke into a run and were able to position themselves in front of the Pro-Life stage before the march proper arrived, apparently taking the police flat footed.

Pro-Choice activists approach Parliament House ahead of the march

Pro_choice banner held in front of Pro-Life stage

At this point the side of the steps reserved for the Pro-Choice counter rally was almost deserted, and a contingent of police occupied the upper steps:
Tactical response squad on steps

Unfortunately, that is as far as this site is able to provide a first-hand account; our time had run out. But the respective Facebook pages are there to fill in the gaps:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/March-For-The-Babies/105936922804480
https://www.facebook.com/events/428242667285109/
https://www.facebook.com/events/688190664544348/

[Added 12 January 14: this post should have included a link to the report with comments on the website of the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group. And another report worth a look is this from Ali Ryan which appeared shortly after the above:http://aliryanphotography.com/2013/10/17/abortion-rally-2013/]

Overview of crowd outside Parliament House

The scene just before 3pm

Strictly speaking the Zombie Shuffle should have come before this, followed by the March against Monsanto, but the Shuffle produced so many photos we decided to bring the Monsanto event forward – of course, it actually preceded the events just described, but this post has long given up trying to be linear.

March against Monsanto

Rally at State Library

Once again we have to rely largely on a Facebook page for detail, and indeed, the coming of Facebook has largely made sites of this kind redundant, which in turn is one reason why updates are infrequent (the archive is plodding along). But we do have a few photos, including the one above, taken at the State Library towards the end of the rally which preceded the march down Swanston Street:

We noticed that some participants carried references to a film GMO OMG shown at the recent Melbourne Environmental Film Festival. (That was a hint, although there is so far no word of further screenings here.)

And so we come to undoubtedly the best-attended event of the day, though leaving aside the question whether it can legitimately be called a protest – the
Zombie Shuffle 2013

This year the assembly point was moved to the Fitzroy Gardens instead of the Carlton Gardens, a good move on the whole, avoiding the confusion of last year (see report here) though there seems so have been some difficulty with streets blocked off for other events – something that might not have arisen if the Shuffle had been held at the end of the month, as previously? (See this report in The Age.)

There is probably nothing to say except that the event was obviously a great success, if anything more comprehensively photographed than even last year, and so indeed we pass on to the largest gallery yet posted on this site for a single event, randomly presented from the assembly and the beginning of the march:

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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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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Head of "March for the Babies"

Click on image for video

23 July 2011 – Commemoration of murdered security guard Steve Rogers at Fertility Control Centre, 16 July 2001

On 23 July, pro-choice activists commemorated the tenth anniversary of the murder of Steve Rogers, security guard at the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne, by anti-abortion extremist Peter Knight on 16 July 2001. For the last six years the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights has organised a defence of the clinic on the fourth Saturday of each month to counter harassment by the so-called Helpers of God’s Precious Infants – see, for example, http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pc/videos/clinic-engage.avi/view and on Melbourne Indymedia (this includes a downloadable flv clip of a physical confrontation on one occasion, see also http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pc/videos/28july-ph_steps_engage.avi/view).

A range of speakers included members of Radical Women, who have supported the campaign from its beginning, and representatives of people with disabilities, the transgender community, a feminist mothers group, as well as Kieran from Albury Choice, who explained what has been going on there (see http://www.bordermail.com.au/news/local/news/general/sheets-out-in-abortion-faceoff/2234554.aspx).

Police were aware of the significance of the date and were present in some numbers, escorting the Right-to-Lifers to and from their ‘vigil’ and intervening decisively at the provocation offered by one elderly individual.

Anthea addressing the rally

Click on thumbnail to view video

The footage here is necessarily selective, and much has had to be omitted, including unfortunately the address by Alison Thorne of the Freedom Socialist Party (but see the 22 August 2009 report mentioned above). On the other hand, a low-resolution streaming version of the whole event (65 minutes) is available at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16179764

From Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights:

Ten years ago Steve Rogers was killed at work, defending the Fertility Control Clinic. On July 16, 2001, Peter Knight, an anti-abortion terrorist, stormed the clinic’s waiting room. A terrifying melee ended in Rogers’ death. The Fertility Control Clinic remains the target of an ultra-right movement intent on revoking Victoria’s legalisation of abortion and stripping back women’s choices. Every month, on the fourth Saturday, reproductive rights activists defend the clinic and its neighbourhood from a contingent of anti-choice crusaders.

At the July defence, pro-choicers will commemorate this anniversary, remember Steve Rogers and say “Never Again!” Come rally for full reproductive rights for all women and join in building a movement that will stop the anti-abortionists and secure real choices for women.

Added 28 July – There are photos from the rally and of a memorial service held later by clinic staff on the Freedom Socialist Party Facebook page here.