Queensland Cracking Down on Protests

27/08/2019

Greens Councillor, Johnathan Sri, has set up a protest march to protect the peoples’ democratic right to protest march and defend free speech. Despite attempts to have it shut down, at 8:00a.m. Wednesday morning (28th of August), there will be a short march in Brisbane.

This protest is in response to laws that the Queensland Labor government has put forward which would make protesting more difficult and gives police more powers to search and fine people for various, vague purposes, without proof, so long as they believe the person is intending to attend a protest. The move has been compared to (although thankfully it’s not quite so drastic just yet) former Premier Joh Bjerke-Petersen’s authoritarian, police state measures against protesters, namely the Union movements at the time.

Seeing as Joh was a Nationals leader, it is incredibly disappointing to see Labor following similar steps in an effort to crush environmental causes, including the anti-Adani and Extinction Rebellion protests. Labor, on a State and Federal level, has had to shift their positions following their election defeat earlier this year, which is only further serving to alienate them as a party of opposition.

Those who vote for the Coalition parties, or One Nation, etc. will not vote for Labor just because they are making concessions – it only lets those parties get away with more and more drastic and radical policies that many do not agree with. It’ll be just like the Americans when the Democrats lurched themselves into the neoliberal era, paving the way for destructive Republican governments – yes, Trump included.

On a more local level, the Brisbane City Council (an LNP stronghold, notably) took Councillor Sri to Court today in an attempt to have the protest stopped in its tracks. Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Adrian Schrinner, has asked for more powers to tackle “extremists” as well. Sri won, but it is worth noting the contempt from the BCC regarding compromise. The protest will take a route through Edward St to Parliament House, outside the QUT campus. We can already tell what the headlines will be, particularly from the Murdoch press and commercial news stations.

The march will only take about 15 minutes, but the oh so terrible disruption to traffic will no doubt take precedence over the actual reason for the protest, and the compromises will likely not be mentioned at all. According to Sri, he attempted to change the protest route to limit the affect on traffic. The first was, rather than going through Edward St, leading the protest up Queen St Mall instead; the second was leaving the bus lanes free to allow buses to continue unhindered.

The BCC rejected both of these ideas. Why? Sri was willing to make concessions to make the protest less impactful on traffic, a move he does not, under law, need to take. But it’s pretty simple to imagine the reasoning behind the rejections – the BCC and opponents to the protests would not be able to slam attendants for the disruption. Despite it being entirely legal and planned, the negative light cast on protesting will only work if it is deemed an annoyance by the public.

So don’t listen to the articles that talk about how protests disrupt traffic, or how much of a public nuisance the marchers supposedly are. Instead, realise that compromises were offered and rejected by the Council, and (most importantly) recognise why the protest is taking place. To oppose it makes you complicit in the silencing of democracy – that is not hyperbole.

Want to join or hear about the protest? The Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/459359944792270/

 

Liked this? Read The Right to Protest: Adani

Previous piece: Climate Justice Is Indigenous Rights

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