At the 5000-strong rally last Saturday it was decided to hold another protest within a week, and on Friday 2 August somewhere between 1500 and 2000 marched through the streets of Melbourne from Flinders Street station to the old City Square. And this in spite of miserable weather. The rally was organised by Socialist Alternative and RAAF (Renegade Activists Action Force), and supported and endorsed by a long list of organisations and individuals (see the Facebook event page). The opening rally was addressed by musician and activist Ezekiel Ox, Liz Walsh of the Refugee Action Collective, Hazara refugee Mohammad Ali Bagiri, Lea Rumwaropen of the West Papuan community, with contributions from Abe Ape and Muma Doesa, with Newdub Citysound and Trevor Grant of the Tamil Refugee Council winding up at the end of the march. MC overall was Jacob Grech of RAAF. With a starting time of 5.30pm and still some way to go to Spring the light was not too good, and naturally deteriorated as the march progressed, so that the footage of the final stages is rather on the grainy side, but hopefully gives some idea of the mood and size of the event:
Another rally is planned for the same time next Friday, 9 August, with a major event coming up on Saturday 24 August. Details will appear on the Rac-Vic website and Facebook page.
In addition to the footage posted here, which focuses chiefly on the march, there is excellent coverage biased towards the speakers posted on YouTube on the LeftAndcorrect channel – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeacJGdk8v4
The following mainstream media report may be of interest also: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/refugee-rally-disrupts-five-tram-services-in-city/story-fni0fit3-1226690421302
We were able to manage only a short stay at this year’s rally, and had to miss the annual march to the EMERGE Festival at Fitzroy Town Hall. Numbers at the rally were respectable but not large – one media report, on ninemsn, refers to ‘hundreds'; The Age says ‘1000’ – and there was a general feeling of disbelief that it should still be necessary to hold these protests now twelve years after the Tampa and under a Labor government at that. The Greens were well represented*, with Adam Bandt one of the speakers, along with Misha Coleman in her capacity also as executive officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, and Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (Facebook) was MC. Music beforehand and during the march was provided by The Conch, and Les Thomas sang a song written for ASIO victim Ranjini.
*Flags of the ANF were also visible, but otherwise not much in the way of union support.
A few photos from the rally outside the Melbourne Museum, mostly self-explanatory:
Pamela Curr and Misha Coleman (at microphone)
Also showing support
One year after Palm Island Indigenous leader Lex Wotton was released on parole two years into a six-year sentence for riot, the Indigenous Social Justice Association in Melbourne (ISJA)called a speakout to protest at the gag imposed on him as part of his parole conditions. Lead speaker was prominent criminal lawyer Rob Stary; others included musician Ezekiel Ox, Cheryl Kaulfuss from ISJA, and representatives of Radical Women, Anarchist Black Cross, Socialist Alliance and individuals declaring their support for for the campaign.
A slightly cut version of Rob Stary’s address has been posted on YouTube, along with extracts from the rest of the action, which culminated with a symbolic removal of gags from participants to chants of “You can’t gag the movement”.
The video also shows a police patrol which came past just as one speaker was finishing, and a young officer stopping to take a few copies of a “No Room for Racism” sticker from the table:
Speak out for Lex Wotton’s Political Freedom!
Lift the unfair gag — let Lex speak!
Build the movement to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody
One year ago Lex Wotton was released from jail after serving two-years behind bars as a political prisoner. Lex got a 6-year sentence after being found guilty of riot with destruction by an all-white jury. He took part in a justified community protest against the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee. In contrast, Chris Hurley, the police officer responsible for the death in custody, has been promoted and compensated. The whole response to the 2004 death in custody has been scandalously flawed.
While Lex is free, he remains politically muzzled by harsh parole conditions, which deny him the right to speak to the media or to attend pubic meetings.
Lex Wotton is an inspirational advocate for the people of Palm Island whose voice is needed to expose the shameful truth behind the death of Mulrunji and everything that followed.
Attend the lunch time speak out outside the Bank of Queensland. Demand the Queensland Government lift the political gag on Lex Wotton now! Stop Aboriginal deaths in custody now!
Wednesday 20 July, 2011
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Outside the Bank of Queensland
163 Bourke Street Melbourne.
(Near the corner of Russell Street)
Organised by Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne
PO Box 308, Brunswick, Vic 3056
The Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) organised a protest outside the office of FaHCSIA – the Department of Families, Health, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to mark the fourth anniversary of the NT Intervention. The rally was one of a series being held across the country – see http://indymedia.org.au/4-year-anniversary-end-the-nt-intervention-rally – and was addressed by a number of speakers from MAIC (including Jasmine Ali, who wound up proceedings but is unfortunately not captioned in the video) and others taking advantage of the open mic.
There was loud and decisive rejection of the anti-Islamic message of a small group gathered in Melbourne’s Federation Square under the banner of the Australian Defence League. A counter rally called by the Renegade Activists Action Force (RAAF), and supported by people from all sectors of the community, unionists, Indigenous, socialists, anarchists, non-aligned, human rights supports, and many more effectively swamped the ADL action, eventually crowding them out of the Square under police escort – according to RAAF having first appealed for a guarantee of safe conduct.
The counter rally was addressed by several speakers refuting the ADL’s claims, including Dave Kerin, Kevin Bracken, Irish Socialist Kevin McLoughlin, Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace, Mick Armstrong of Socialist Alternative, while others kept the megaphone busy at the front line. There was a gradual move to encircle the ADL position, and bit by bit move the centre of gravity, so to speak, back towards the street. There was a certain amount of pushing and shoving, but nothing to write home about, and no arrests, although police did drag a few people apart on occasion. It was all over after about an hour and a half, although a few individuals stayed around a bit longer, absorbed into the general public passing through the Square – which was also the scene of a colourful festival celebrating the birth of the Buddha.
Video footage of the event is in preparation.* In the meantime, here are photos of participants from both sides, mostly self-explanatory:
* Added 17 May:
The Melbourne Anti-intervention Collective (MAIC) called a snap protest on Monday 2 May outside the Celtic Club on Queens Street, where Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was due to launch a book by academic Gary Johns entitled ‘Aboriginal Self-Determination: The Whiteman’s Dream’. As the callout puts it, they will be :
…openly calling for the destruction of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal collective identity… Johns argues that Aboriginal culture should be ‘relegated to museums and occasional ceremonies’. He argues that Aboriginal communities should be dispersed and individuals should be forced to chase ‘market opportunities’.
On the contrary, protesters argued that the policies of assimilation and destruction of Aboriginal culture have been tried in the past and have failed, as also ‘[the] evidence mounts of the total failure of the NT Intervention.’
‘… we have seen efforts to destroy Aboriginal communities and culture before. From massacres to missions, from stolen generation right through to the NT Intervention – these area the policies that have created disadvantage and social disfunction – not the as-yet untested policy of self-determination, or Aboriginal culture.’
In spite of the short notice about thirty protesters picketed the main entrance, which management elected to close, while others handed out leaflets at the bar door, which remained open. There did not seem to be a very large attendance at the function, if the numbers arriving at either of these points were any guide. Various members of the Collective took turns at the megaphone, including MC Lucy Honan and Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe. Extracts of the speeches and interactions with guests arriving for the function can be seen in the YouTube video embedded above.
Numbers were up on last year, partly no doubt because the day fell on a Sunday, allowing the May Day Committee to fall in line with the rest of the world, but also boosted by the arrival of a large contingent marching under the banner of Middle East Solidarity and demanding democracy in Syria:
A spokesman for the Syrian community appeals for Australian support
As always, the march was led by the Ringwood RSL Pipe Band, and followed the traditional route down Russell Street to LaTrobe, Swanston Street to Collins, and so back to Trades Hall via Russell Street. Proceedings began with a Welcome to Country from Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace:
and ended with more speakers, and performances by the Victorian Trade Union Choir:
These photos represent the three stages of the event, beginning with the stalls in Lygon Street and preparations for the march. Most require no comment:
On the march:
Returning to starting place
Outstanding amongst the speakers at the end of the march was anti-Intervention campaigner Barbara Shaw of the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs:
This took things up to 3pm, which is when Melbourne Protests’ reporter had to leave … As always there was no shortage of leaflets on offer; one of these, from Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group entitled simply ‘May Day’, has been made available for this post: May Day 2011