The Australian had a headline saying that there was havoc in the CBD. Pauline Hanson called protesters ‘serial pests’, and Lord Mayor of Brisbane (Adrian Schrinner) said they were ‘worse than the CFMEU’ and doubled down on his ‘extremist’ comment. Even friends sent me annoyed messages. That’s it everyone, they caught us, civil liberties are just too inconvenient a responsibility to have laying about.
It’s pretty simple – protests are supposed to be disruptive. They are supposed to generate conversations about the causes they are supporting and call on the government to act on the demands of the people. The temporary inconvenience you might experience in the morning of dodgy traffic is negligible to the real havoc that would ensue if we do not act on climate change. It does not compare to the possibility of being under a growing police state with, with the State suppressing dissidence.
Today’s protest, specifically, is one that everyone needs to understand, because Queensland has been here before. Joh Bjerke-Petersen, a former Nationals Premier, clamped down on civil liberties and set off police raids on people who had the audacity to congregate together. The right to march was taken away and people had to fight to get it back. We do those dissidents – some of whom showed up this morning to participate – a disservice by being complacent and letting a now Labor State government push for similar laws.
It’s also worth noting who was at this rally, because it wasn’t self-entitled morons blocking traffic for the hell of it like some would have you believe. While it was set up by a Greens Councillor, Jonathan Sri, and attended by State MP Michael Berkman, this wasn’t a Greens’ issue. It is beyond parties and petty factionalism – this was a group of movements coming together.
Environmental activists, for sure, took centre-stage as it was their protests that were the catalyst for all of this. Anti-Adani, veganism, the School Strike 4 Climate, and Extinction Rebellion members were present. There was an information security pitch talking about the right to privacy and how people, suspected activists or those who may be talking about current or future ‘illegal’ activities, were being monitored. A man promoted a pro-Palestine event to help raise funds for those in Gaza and the West Bank.
People were protesting the raids on journalists, carried out by the AFP earlier this year. They were rallying against the brutality and silence regarding the refugee policies successive governments have been enacting for years now. Indigenous voices took to the microphone to protest against police violence and racism, and their connection to the land and opposition to its destruction through projects like Adani. I even had a Marxist, who was apparently there combatting the bourgeoisie, try to sell me his newspaper. Berkman’s own mother joined briefly on her way to Bible study.
Oh, and a lot of police surrounding the peaceful group.
This wasn’t just some gathering of ‘leftie fools’, and by no means a gathering of extremists (the most ‘violent’ act I saw was a dumb reporter running with a huge camera who hit a car’s sideview mirror, actually knocking part of it off; a marcher picked it up and left it on the hood of the car, the reporter too busy barging through the crowd). If fighting for your rights to free speech and the freedom to protest is considered ‘extremist’ now, then I’ll wear that with pride – but Sri is right: QLD Labor and the BCC are the real extremists trying to shut it down.
No, this was an approximately 300 strong march that transcended political, factional, and issue-based divides. I can guarantee that not everyone there would agree on everything, but the right to freedom is universal and inalienable.
But let’s quickly talk about Schrinner and Hanson. When the BCC took Sri to Court yesterday, they cited traffic disruption as their main concern. Not only did the Magistrate take Sri’s side, saying that he saw no valid reason to shutdown the protest, the BCC was complicit. Sri repeated today that he was more than happy to compromise, marching up the Mall rather than Edward St. The BCC declined. Sri called this out, and also said that maybe the disruptions wouldn’t be so bad if transport and infrastructure funding and planning was actually good.
And Hanson, well free speech is only good when it lets her spread lies and climb a rock, apparently. If you support Pauline Hanson’s (attempted) climbing of Uluru, then the protests in Brisbane shouldn’t have been an issue for you – it’s all just ‘disrespectful’, yeah? And an aside, if you support Hong Kong’s protests against Beijing’s influence, a push for democracy from below, but criticise the protest today, then maybe freedom and democracy isn’t your motive.
Points to take away from this:
- Don’t believe the media narrative about ‘havoc’ or ‘extremism’, or any source that says there were less than at least 200 people
- Your current inconvenience is a small price to pay for future generations’ rights life and freedom
- Compromise was attempted, but the State government and BCC forced the protest to take place as it did after they failed to prevent it
- You can be damn sure there’ll be more protests if the government does not back down
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