Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Melbourne Day 7: This in NOT what democracy looks like Mr Doyle

What a day. Between consultations with clients it was spent down on Swanston Street amongst protesters (yes I was the middle aged woman in a red trench coat and lipstick amongst the crowd on the outside of the fence shouting “This is what democracy looks like”) and watching from my birds eye view in my workplace opposite City Square. I also talked to those-that-know in the Occupy Melbourne movement, passersby and police.

The majority of people I came across in the street and at work don’t get Occupy Melbourne. Heck, most hadn’t even heard of it before today. And I’m sure they still won’t get it after the media mangles the intent and shows something suitably controversial.

What happened today was entirely the fault of Mayor Robert Doyle. For the rest of the week the police were hands off, non-antagonistic, happy and a bit bored. All that changed when the mayor ordered them to evict Occupy Melbourne supporters from City Square this morning. So the police asked them nicely to move along, go home, have a shower and a bit of nap. Occupy Melbourne opted for passive resistance instead. Did Doyle really think they’d just pack up and go quietly?

The protest had nowhere to go but the streets. No wonder the lone guard I chatted to outside the town hall at 9am looked nervous.

The media reported that at least 400 police converged on one little corner of the CBD. I asked a cop at lunchtime, having seen at least 5 city blocks packed with police vehicles, how many of them were there. “I don’t know – enough to make us feel safe”. A ratio of about 4 cops to every protester. Is that safety or overkill? With the dog squad, mounted police and riot squad all in attendance it was quite a turnout.

So why did the Council insist on the removal of the occupation today? Some suggest it’s cleaning up the city before the Queen visits. Possibly those who profit from guests paying an exorbitant room rate at the hotel overlooking the square didn't like it. Or maybe, just maybe, as I discovered when I chatted to a council employee who came down for a stickybeak at lunchtime, the real agenda may be that the council wants to begin erecting the Christmas tree in City Square. That's right, Occupy Melbourne is being auditioned as the Grinch that stole Christmas.

I don’t know why I feel the need to defend Occupy Melbourne. I'm non-aligned but went to the first day in the Square out of curiosity and was quite smitten by the protest. I like it mainly because of it’s perceived inadequacies. There's no spokesperson, clear aims, or ownership. It appears to be a truly organic, grassroots movement making it up as it goes along. Though the unions and the socialists are visible, they don’t run it. People are talking about possibilities. The usual suspects are not in charge. It has been more about talking, than shouting. This is what democracy can look like.

But the misunderstanding and venom being vented against Occupy Melbourne leaves me speechless. The hatred spewed out on Twitter, overwhelming. On the news an elderly woman said, “They (the police) should run them (the protesters) over”. Aren’t the haters a greater inditement of our society, than some people camping peacefully in a god awful city park? (For those not familiar with our civic feature – it’s a beige gravel rectangle in the heart of a place once known as “the Garden State”.)

I am still processing what I witnessed today. It has awakened my political heart and for that I’ve got to thank Occupy Melbourne, our municipal police force and yes, even Robert Doyle.


Blury iphone pic: mid-morning during the eviction of City Square. Protesters on the outside of the fence, shouting chants of support to the remaining occupiers


looking down on the Collins/Swanston Streets intersection, after police had pushed supporters up Swanston St

Worth a look

Read Samuel's Battle of City Square on his experience of being ejected and what Occupy Melbourne means to him.

Strangely, the Herald Scum's video of the eviction is worth looking at.



And even stranger, the Oz coughed up a good editorial (22.10.11)
"In a nation where open-mindedness and freedom of expression are central to the liberty we enjoy in our daily lives, we should expect the utmost reticence to restrict people's right to protest."


Mike Stuchbery on being assaulted by police on Swanston Street.
Anyway, I’m not a troublemaker. I’m a suburban high school teacher. I’m no radical. I’m a politics nerd, a West Wing fan. I am extremely fond of capitalism. I like stuff. I’m materialistic. I think our democracy is considerably more healthy than many of our international cousins. I make a point of letting the kids I teach know that our system is a great one, that we should protect it. Laws? They’re ace. I nearly voted Liberal once or twice. Still might, if the bigoted, zealots get the nudge.

I have my Trot tendencies, but they’re cast aside at the thought of getting my hands on the latest iPhone.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous NB said...

Excellent piece AOF, here's to the revolutionary spirit :-)

8:20 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

Really good piece. Unfortunately I had a Big Thing to organise this week and didn't make it down there to visit and perhaps hold a sign for a while.

I have only two qualified quibbles and that is that 1) White australians should realise they aren't quite as up against it as the US protesters - yet, at least. At least we have a public health system. For now. 2) The worst poverty and inequality isn't in white Australia (see (1).)

12:12 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Helen, it's totally imperfect but what the gist of the occupation in the square became was people getting together and talking, sharing and being a community.

I talked to a woman today on the march who said after seeing the communal kitchen last weekend she vowed to cook her kids better food, "no more processed rubbish". I'm hoping that by continuing to politicise people (ok, I mean Gen Y), there will be an ongoing voice out there to stand up for continued public health etc in this country.

4:04 pm  

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