Here is an interesting account of S11
October 2, 2000 6:56 PM Subscribe
Here is an interesting account of S11 written by a journalist who went to protest on his day off. More inside...
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The link is likely to die soon so I am reproducing it here:
An account of the S11 protest
By now you’ll have heard the Andrew Bolt version of events, the Neil Mitchell version, and of course, that sanitised affair that is the Working Dog spin on life. You know that police had urine poured on them, nails and glass shards were used to distress horses, and Richard Court was terrorised for an hour. After a television news cameraman caught a fist in the face from an upstanding boy in blue, you then learnt that police had left quite a few demonstrators in various stages of disrepair – a few front teeth out here, multiple bruises from being dragged ten metres there, and – oh, a woman who was run over by an unmarked police vehicle.
Anyway, I was there, a working journalist on a day off – gasp! I was there to protest, not to work, and I didn’t even take my minidisc in the hope of a few choice grabs. And this is how I saw S11:
Went to friends’ place at 7am. Kathy had taken the day off work to attend, Stella was going to turn up to work late claiming transport delays, and Mike had big plans and was due to meet friends underneath Shane Warne outside the All Star™ Café on Clarendon Street.
After a brief stop at Burger King to buy some onion rings laced with amphetamines – there you go Hillary Bray – we were off, on the number 1 tram up Swanston Street to join the comrades.
We arrived about 7.45 and strode down past Southgate to the casino site. Lots of people, people everywhere. There were posters, stalls, and a stage. We went around to the back – or the front, depending on where you’re coming from – to the Clarendon Street entrance, where already there were some 300 protesters, some with arms linked, some milling around, but most just standing on the spot, hands jammed in pockets, waiting.
There were people there from all walks of life – some who would otherwise be in a suit for work, sixties lefties who now live in Armidale, students, parents with kids in pushers, unionists, greenies.
It was then that two things happened: a bird shat on my gloves and I realised that I had severely underestimated the weather. It was cold. Arctic, wet, windy and normally I would never be outside this early in the morning, let alone in this weather without gloves.
A few marshals scurried around, identifiable by yellow stickers emblazoned over their chunky Fair Isle knits, talking into their sleeves and trying to organise the crowd into something resembling protest.
And then we noticed something: a bus … no, two buses, with suited delegates faintly visible through tinted windows, stuck in a jam trying to get through. We huddled, we linked arms, we chanted. Then it started raining, so we moved around to in front of Tea House. There, it was all quite jovial – a huddle of clowns, a line of silent, motionless police on horses, and an angry row of traffic pointing towards South Melbourne but going nowhere, stuck behind a barrier and a messy crowd.
A long haired man in his early twenties sat down in a patch of empty road. He had brought his own bed of nails, and sat like a wax statue, cross legged and immobile, while photographers swarmed around snapping wildly. Then the clowns lined up and linked arms in front of the row of mounted police – another focus for the photographers.
“Don’t agitate the horses! Get away from the horses!” yelled out a few people from the crowd. (There’s your mob mentality, Mr Court).
All up, it was quiet on the front, with only a few sporadic chants of “Hey ho … WEF has got to go” and the like. Mostly people were milling around, greeting old friends … “Hello Comrade Gareth!” and having a laugh. No one was up in arms, no one was causing problems.
We moved around to the blockade outside the entrance near the All Star™ Cafe. There, a wooly-coated woman informed us with a megaphone that all entrances had been blocked (it was about 9.30 by now). All that was left to do was remain to explain to casino punters that they couldn’t go in. About twenty police officers were standing outside Tea House, arms crossed in front of them, and there were about ten on horses.
Not a name badge in sight.
There didn’t seem to be anything going on in the crowd on the corner apart from a constant hum of slogans. The line of cars that had been banked up slowly started to back out, one by one, and carefully U-turn over the median strip. As they moved away I saw a few protesters surrounding a white car with WEF K… spray painted in green on the side. A policewoman was talking to the driver, who somehow managed to get away, jaws clenched. I asked who it was, and was told it was possibly Richard Court but no one was sure. (This was actually Denis Napthine’s car).
About ten minutes later the row of police on foot suddenly ran in the direction of the crowd and broke through, arms flailing. A few minutes later the mounted police followed. From what I could see, there had been no provocation.
In the ensuing ten minutes – the bit you saw on the news for the next two days – there was a bit of a scuffle. The tempo of the chanting rose, and at least 5 people emerged with bloodied faces or limping or being carried by friends.
That of course was the infamous Richard Court incident. I couldn’t see the car at the time, but until I saw the news that night I didn’t really believe it was the man himself who was targeted.
A bit later on, my friend Neil rang on the mobile. A Sydney journalist, he was trying to cover the events from his desk there and was trying to get hold of an organiser for comment, and was getting more and more frustrated as no one would speak.
I should add that while I was keen to come to this event when I first heard about it back in July, when I learnt of some of the people who were involved, I was somewhat sceptical, having dealt with them previously and had found them disorganised and even rude. For example, a couple of years ago I decided to champion certain environmental issues, in the face of a hostile news editor, and would go out to events arranged by some of them … and would find that only six people had showed. Not even all the organisers would turn up.
So I was a bit surprised, but pleased, to discover the level of support at S11. Somewhere between 10,000 (police estimate) and 20,000 (Socialist Worker estimate) had showed, and it was great, it was a carnival. People were dancing, You’re the Voice was on repeat rotation, people were singing, and it was fun for all, despite the cold.
Inside Crown, according to a report in The Age the following day, delegates were exchanging tales of their harried passages into the forum, in a manner similar to diggers exchanging war stories. It’s fair to say none of them had seen this much action since two Japanese tourists wanted to use the toilets inside the Millennium Dome on NYE.
This way, it surely enough jolted a few suits out of their comfort zones. In any case, protests are good ways to force those at the helm to think outside of their immediate context – corporate and political types too often get caught up within their own frameworks. Writing letters to express concern at, say, the destruction of native rainforests to make way for industry, doesn’t work, as they have staff to write back. Or ignore.
It’s unfortunate, but we need events like S11 to get the discourse back on track. Most people there who I talked to are actually quite well informed and merely want to promote responsible globalisation, rather than profit driven. I was glad to see the forum went ahead - but gladder still to note the presence of the dignified and eloquent Vandana Shiva, the unofficial patron saint of the anti-globalisation camp.
I had friends in London emailing to tell me it was big news over there; my cousin, a V-P of a new Silicon Valley based dot com, rang me excitedly to tell me she read about it in the International Herald Tribune and thought it was wonderful.
And in the end, it really is all about outcomes: I doubt anyone would have taken a smidgen of notice if the rally had been nothing more than a few dozen ferals dancing around a maypole under the Planet Hollywood globe.
posted by lagado at 7:01 PM on October 2, 2000