On April 4th, a couple of weeks ago, I attended the counter-rally to Reclaim Australia (RA). For those that don't know what RA is all about it comes down to fear-mongering and bigotry. They oppose the take-over or "Islamification" of Australia by Muslims, they want Halal certification banned, and want Islam banned from being taught in schools, amongst other narrow-minded, and fear based demands. They don't let facts get in the way of good-olde scapegoating, and would rather still up xenophobic sentiments instead of realising Muslims compose only 2.2% of Australia's population. If this is a taking over Australian culture, I'm not exactly sure what Australia they are living in.
In anycase, I attended the counter-rally, organised by some Lefty organisation, alongside a bunch of other anarchist, about 25-30 many of whom formed part of ANTIFA. We congregated at the George St end of Martin place from 10am onwards, and watch many people walk to the meeting point of the RA rally in a center square of Martin Place. It was hard to tell who was part of RA and who was an ordinary citizen as individuals, couples, or small groups walked pass us, but there were some that made it obvious where they intended to be. These people had Australian flags draped over their backs, or Australian flag hats, or shirts, or handheld Australian flags. I don't like to make assumptions, but I'm pretty sure these people were heading to the RA rally.
There were some people, however, that didn't need an Australia flag for us to know where they were going, they were notorious enough to be recognised on appearance. The first was Ross "The Skull" May, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, known for, back in the 70s, his anti-sementic aggressions; his assault of any opposition, for which he served repeated jail time; and general racist behaviour, all while dressed in Nazi regalia. It seems he'd smartened up in his older age, as for this rally he wasn't wearing any Nazi insignia, but even as late as 2013 he still clings to his outdated neo-Nazi beliefs saying that he's proud to be a neo-Nazi in this day and age. For the rally he wasn't traveling solo, but was surrounded by 5-6 well-built middle aged men, and as he walked pass the group of us he threw a few Seig Heils our way. We responded with a barrage of mockery.
Later, his neo-Nazi buddy Jim Salem passed our way. Back in the 70s he ran around with The Skull wearing Nazi regalia, promoting his racist and fascist ideology. Not surprisingly he was also jailed for assault and fraud, both of which he claims to be innocent of. Currently, he is leader of Australia First (NSW) and holds a doctorate based upon his thesis of right-winged radicalism. Unlike Ross, Jim was alone, but that didn't prevent him from hurling threats at us anarchists, claiming he knows where we all live. It's hard to say whether or not these characters will have any sway amongst the RA crowd, there is hope that they don't, but there are probably a least a few who will be swayed by whatever backwards, fear drenched argument they can muster.
In anycase, the RA crowd was composed of some neo-Nazi's. If the RA beliefs are not enough to be concerned about, then the mingling of people who hold these beliefs with some neo-Nazi's should make one alarmed. However, as I looked upon the crowd from the distance through the lines of police I could see an Aboriginal flag, and even a Jewish flag, both of which would offend Jim and Ross. Perhaps, there's enough memory of Nazism, to prevent any spread of it, however, the spread of bigotry and racism, doesn't need neo-Nazism and seems to be moving along fine with RA.
Not long after the RA started we decide to go to the actual counter rally that was held a few blocks away from Martin Place, where noone from any of the rallies could hear or even see each other and therefore have no effect whatsoever on each other. We got there at the tail end of the speakers, and, to my surprise, the organiser of the counter-rally put to vote whether we wanted to march to Martin Place or not. It was a resounding yes. However, as soon as we started to move the cops closed in a tight line, preventing us from moving down Phillip St. That didn't perturb us, the entire crowd quickly turned around and started to march down Macquarie St, much to the chagrin of the police, many of whom bolt ahead of us.
By the time I got to the top-end of Martin Place a line of police had formed, not just foot-soldiers, but police on horseback and beyond the line I saw a protesters being pushed and dragged back beyond the police line. They must've made it up there before the majority of the police formed the line. There was a few attempts to break through the line, but it was met with brute force by the police. It was before this line of police that we started to chant various phrases to vocalise our displeasure with the likes of RA, and it was also before this line that it started to rain.
So, there we stood, in the rain, chanting in front of the police, intentions set on the RA rally. I'm not sure if they heard us, or even saw us, there was a few more lines of police closer to the RA rally. I walked along the line, taking some photos, wondering why the foot-soldiers had no wet whether gear, how much they were getting paid to on this holiday Saturday, and where they'd rather be than in the rain, protecting a bunch of bigots from some lefties.
This seemed to be the climax of the counter rally. After this most of the attendants made their way back to the spot of the speakers, and mulled around a bit under cover, cops watchful and standing in the rain. Eventually most people left, while a bunch of ANTIFA discussed a strategy to confront RA via Martin Place. After a bit of discuss we broke off in groups, and caught a train to Martin Place, however, by the time we got there the RA had dispersed though I'm sure I saw many making their way down the escalators to catch a train, who gave us a curious stare.
In the end there was no direct confrontation with any of the RA rally attendants on the cold, rainy day, but there were many confrontations with police. For this final strategy, they shooed us away from the RA rally site, down Phillip St, and continued to follow us for a few blocks until we got to Georgy St. It was about this time that I decided to part ways from the small group that was continually being pushed away from the Martin Place area by police. I'm not exactly sure by what legal authority they could do that, they claimed a "move on order" or something of the like as we were a danger to public peace. In anycase, I moved on by my own volition back to the train station and home.
It wasn't an uneventful event, but it wasn't exactly climatic. I'm not sure what I was expecting, nor am I sure of what tactics could've been used. The ANTIFA crew seemed to have a few alternative ideas as to what to do, and how to approach it, but it the long run I'm curious what strategies can be used to not only confront this bigoted culture head-on, but also how to inspire change so the ANTIFA wouldn't be required to start with. That, however, sounds like a long term goal.Anti-racismCommunity
The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established 10 months ago to oppose the removal of Aboriginal people from Redfern. Jura supports the Embassy their campaign for affordable housing for Aboriginal people in the area. We support justice and self-determination for Aboriginal people; being pushed out of inner city areas to make way for wealthy non-Aboriginal people is not justice.
The Block, where the embassy is situated is legally owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), headed by Mick Mundine. The original plan was for AHC to turn it into a modern, affordable housing project for Aboriginal people. However now the AHC, along with development company DeiCorp, plan to gentrify the area with their Pemulwuy Project. 14 of the 17 storeys are designated as student housing and a commercial shopping area. DeiCorp controversially said in an advertisement, "The Aboriginals [sic] have already moved out, now Redfern is the last virgin suburb close to city, it will have great potential for the capital growth in the near future".
The Pemulwuy Project is a departure from the AHC's mission of looking after the housing needs of less well off indigenous people. Asked by the Sydney Morning Herald whether the development would provide affordable housing to Aboriginal people, Mundine said, "That's on the backburner at the moment. Our first priority is the commercial build".
The Embassy is now under constant threat of eviction. Aunty Jenny, one of the elders of the embassy, has asked for people to commit to a shift there. Many supporters, including activists from Black Rose and Jura have gone in response. We encourage you to go and camp there if you can. If you're not able to camp, please consider making a donation as per the details below.
---A message from supporters of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy:
"It's crunch time for the embassy. Its enemies are watching, waiting and working out the best time for eviction. 4 - 6am seems a likely time for them to move in for the attack. Being the cowards that they are, they'll wait for a time when there are perhaps only 2 or 3 women present. If they do act at such a time it won't be too hard to get those 2 or 3 people arrested, then that'll be it for the embassy. The developers will then be able to get to work putting up their 17 storey building.
The embassy was established nearly 10 months ago now, on 26 May 2014. It continues to exist because of widespread community support, which has been much appreciated.
Nevertheless it's hard to maintain vigilance 24/7 indefinitely. The hard core of regulars is getting burned out and that community support has been waning.
Aunty Jenny has asked for people to commit to a shift there. Come down and camp there if you can. Particularly blokes. When the developers and their mates see that blokes are there, more than a few people, they're likely to think twice about trying anything.
Unfortunately, given present circumstances it's not an appropriate place for children to be staying.
The head of the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), Mick Mundine, along with development company DelCorp, plan to gentrify the area with their Pemulwuy Project. 14 of the 17 storeys are designated as student housing and a commercial shopping area.
The Pemulwuy is a departure from the AHC's mission of looking after the housing needs of less well off indigenous people. Asked by the Sydney Morning Herald whether the development would provide affordable housing to Aboriginal people, Mundine said, "That's on the backburner at the moment. Our first priority is the commercial build."
In an area that's becoming increasingly gentrified, the Block, where the embassy is situated, is the last chance Aboriginal people have to hold onto an area that gave them their first land rights.
The Block is legally owned by AHC. The original plan was for AHC to turn it into a modern, affordable housing project for indigenous people.
Please support RATE's efforts to get a guarantee of Aboriginal low cost housing for the elders and families on the Block. We are committed to non-violent resistance to the threatened eviction. Though of course we cannot guarantee that police and other opponents will be non-violent.
Come down, say hi, have a cuppa, meet the crew.
Check out the Facebook page or email: rate_2016[at]outlook.com
Donate to: Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy c/o Jenny Munro
BSB: 062231, Account No: 10433577."
On March 4 over 15,000 union members rallied across NSW in a National Day of Action against privatisation. A broad cross-section of union members turned out, and it was significant that the rally was held during the daytime on a weekday - meaning that some workers walked off the job for it.
Part of the rally, the Save Our Local Community Services campaign organised by the Australian Services Union, is intended to fight back against the State and Federal government's restructuring of community services.
Alongside $271 million worth of budget cuts, the government has introduced competitive tendering which has turned the community sector into a marketplace. Funding which was won through historical political gains of the community - grassroots women's, housing, disability movements, has effectively evaporated as not for profit organisations are forced to win the funding back through entrepreneurial means.
What we've been seeing is large generalised services, usually Christian charities, win the funding at the expense of diverse local services. In this respect, the reforms have also served to bureaucratise the sector as organisations can no longer respond to diverse community needs, but instead have to bid for pre-packaged government endorsed services developed with no consultation. These services do not fund advocacy - one of the main functions community organisations which have historically developed and influenced policy from a grassroots community level. Organisations are now afraid to 'bite the hand that feeds', a real fear which has silenced several groups from publicly speaking out against the restructure.
Hundreds of services are being cut, local community organisations are shutting down, and jobs are being lost. Many organisations don't know what will happen after June 30 when the last of their secured funding will end. The government is also inviting for-profits such as Transfield into the sector to compete for government funding and then make money off the most vulnerable in our communities.
As well as mainstream unions, a number of grassroots activist groups have been organising to take up this fight, and the connected struggle against the NSW Government’s “Going Home Staying Home” policies. For example, Save Our Women’s Services and No Shelter have been very active. These groups have independently organised a number of actions and a campaign which succeeded in saving some women’s services from closure last year. Before the government's ‘reforms' there were around 100 women's services run by women's organisations, now there are just 20. These groups are continuing the fight.
The ASU campaign demands no funding cuts, an end to competitive tendering, five year funding contracts, and no to for-profits in the sector. Thus far the campaign has focused on influencing the actions of government through rallies and candidate pledges. Although direct or industrial action seems some way away, union density in the community sector is growing and democratic workplace structures beginning to form.
The fight to protect and expand our community services is vital to our capacity to survive and struggle. Everyone should be getting involved in some way, because without these services life will get harder for all of us, and organising to fight back will become even more difficult. So get involved with one of these activist groups, or your union, or find out what your local community service is doing and how you can support it!
Decolonizing Anarchism, Maia Rammath: This is a brilliant book, a part of a series of books out of a collaboration between the Institute for Anarchist Studies and AK Press, which leads to critical research and a vehicle for published outcomes. This is especially important in that it brings to western - especially Anglo - anarchists the basic idea that other forms and approaches to anarchism abound on this planet. There are other recent books that focus on this, such as Michael Schmidt's Cartegraphy of Revolutionary Anarchism, and James Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed (both stimulating reads), but Rammath focuses on the South Asian (mainly Indian) region. She also focuses on important people and movements that are rarely or never mentioned in Euro/US based studies, their thoughts, strategies, highs and lows. Hard to find a fault.
The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich & a.h.s. boy: Social Anarchism is one of the best contemporary journals that critically analyses anarchist thoughts and practice, both historical and largely on current matters. The book 'The Best of....' puts together articles from the journal in sensible and understandable themes, and begins with a good history of the journal itself. Some themes are: theory, education, and current practices, and topics include anarchafeminism, 'new anarchism' violence, and 'consensus & democracy'. Quite enjoyable and thought provoking, however there should have been a thorough proof reading done before its publication.
The Tyranny of Theory: A contribution to the anarchist critique of marxism, Ronald Tabor: Quite simply, Tabor does a demolition job on marxism. The core of his analysis is the theme of authoritarianism that he demonstrates pervades not only the theories of Marx and Engles, but also their practice. The main benefit of the book is that it brings into play a lot of recent thought and covers virtually all aspects of the theory and practice of marxism, including both the originators and the followers up to today. In essence, Tabor doesn't add anything essential that has not been covered by Bakunin and Kropotkin, however departs from those anarchists by pulling apart Marx's analysis of capitalism at its core. Pretty academic in approach, but that's the terrain that's being analysed.
Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism, Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt: This book hit me in the face with so many challenges that it took a bit to get to grips with its fundamental thesis: that anarchism began in September 1869, with Bakunin in particular, and generally with anarchists in the First International. Thus they say that Proudhon, Godwin and Stirner, are not anarchists becuse they were not a part of a revolutionary working class movement. Great argument, but seems historicaly determinist in that the implication is that anarchism is not possible without industrialisation and the urbanisation that accompanied it. Others have made similar arguments, such as the early Bookchin and Morris, but they also accept that anarchism is not only a product of history, but of human action, namely, the fight for freedoms and against authoritarianisms that has occured throughout humanity's existence, and continues today.
On Wednesday 24 September, five Sydney anarchists were harassed and intimidated by over 20 cops and banned from Lakemba station for six hours. (Yet they wouldn't allow us to catch a train there to leave the area.) Our crime? Demonstrating solidarity with Muslims in Lakemba.
There was a meeting organised to make placards showing solidarity with Sydney's Muslim community, which was and is feeling the heat. The Abbott regime had announced a heightened terror alert and the capitalist media helped out with sensationalist coverage to induce public paranoia about Islamist terrorist attacks. Abbott had declared ominously that some freedoms will have to be sacrificed for the sakeof security. It was quite alarming.
Those of us with some knowledge of history were reminded perhaps of Hitler's dissolution of parliament following the mysterious burning down of the Reichstag in 1933. "Our country is under attack," was the gist of his declaration at the time. This served to justify in the public mind the introduction of repressive measures. Evil intentions of a mysterious enemy necessitated suspension of democratic freedomslong taken for granted. The slide into outright fascism happens more easily than you might expect.
We set to work making placards. Mine said GOVERNMENTS ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS. Another I'M AFRAID OF GOVTS' ILLEGAL WARS, BIGOTRY, RACISM OT MUSLIMS. A third read H8 COPS NOT MUSLIMS.
With these three placards, five of us caught the train to Lakemba via Redfernfrom Newtown, displaying them to the public on the way. As we waited to cross the road to the station two young white guys in a car made Islamophobic comments in response to the messages on our placards.
We were apprehensive going out there on the train but knew we had to act. It was a small gesture but we couldn't sit back and do nothing as Abbott and Co. ramped up the fear factor. They seemed to be hoping and waiting for an atrocity such as a public beheading so that they could swing into action with a big clampdown on everyone's civil liberties and human rights.
After arriving at Lakemba we went and stood beside a small park next to the station. We displayed our 3 signs to the passing traffic and pedestrians. People were looking at us. We attracted a fair bit of attention.The first comment we had was from a young guy passing by, "What's wrong with Muslims?" He'd seen the sign saying 'I'M AFRAID OF...' but perhaps didn't read the whole thing. Hearts sank at the prospect of our message being misunderstood in this atmosphere of tension.
We felt conspicuous. We walked around the corner into the shopping precinct of Haldon St. People read our signs and took photos. We founda new position on the footpath and stayed there for perhaps 20 minutes or half an hour, facing the road and showing our signs. Two young men drove past in a car. "THAT'S what I'm talking about!!" exclaimed oneafter reading the H8 COPS NOT MUSLIMS sign.
A couple of people came up and thanked us. One even said we'd made his day. We gained confidence as we realised that people understood ourmessage and appreciated the support.
One 'respectable-looking' local community member, perhaps a small businessperson, opened up to us. He told us that his wife was eighth generation Australian but he'd suggested she stay home today as she wore a Muslim head covering. I started to realise the pressure people in Lakemba had been under and Muslims in Australia generally, after the recent well-publicised raids on the homes of Muslims by a federal government that denied it was feeding public prejudice against Muslims. When in actual fact that is exactly what it's been doing.
The guy who'd organised the protest did a spiel on camera, explaining why we were there. He was filmed by another member of our group. I talked too and was filmed. The protest organiser conducted a short interview with the member of the Lakemba community who had approached us. I believe all this footage was to be put on youtube.
We wound up our protest and went to a nearby restaurant to buy some takeaway falafel rolls for a late lunch. People were friendly towards us, and appreciative once they realised we were on their side, not the government's.
Eating our falafel rolls (delicious!) we returned to the station. Turned out we had only nine minutes to wait for our train back toNewtown. All of a sudden I caught sight of five or six uniformed police approaching. Uh oh. I realised they wouldn't like our signs. Especially the one that said H8 COPS NOT MUSLIMS. Nevertheless I wasconfident that there was nothing they could do to us as we'd done nothing wrong or illegal. We had merely exercised our right to free speech.
The cops surrounded us, harassing and intimidating us, particularly the woman with the H8 COPS sign. She defended herself well, explaining that she was a Muslim. The police were angry. They spoke of the young Muslim man who'd stabbed 2 police officers before being shot dead inMelbourne the night before. One of them told us we should be gratefulto be living in this beautiful country. We certainly weren't gratefulfor the harassment!
There was heated argument. A member of the public, possibly a Muslim, came to our aid on the station platform. One of the cops asked the manwhether he needed any help, trying to intimidate him and drive him away. But the man stood his ground and remained among us, exercising his right to observe the public debate.
Our train arrived but the cops forbade us to board it. More uniformed cops emerged from one of the carriages. The argument raged. A cop with glasses asserted that there had been 147 acts of terrorism in Australia. I asked him to name one. He said nothing. One of our groupmentioned the bombing outside Sydney's Hilton Hotel in 1978 and said that it had been the government that had carried out that one. Still more cops came down the station stairs towards us. It was unbelievable. (Even now I cannot believe the State's reaction to five peaceful protesters with three placards who were leaving anyway! Yet I saw it. It did happen!)
A second train pulled into the station. Again we were prevented from leaving. People got off, others got on, looking at us and probably wondering what was going on. I held up my placard so that people on the train could see it: GOVERNMENTS ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS. The police demanded our identification, one person at a time. They were aggressive.
I felt like calling their bluff and refusing their orders. They had no right to harass us when we'd done nothing wrong or illegal. They threatened us with fines and court action. I produced my ID and a cop took down my details from my driver's licence. We didn't feel like getting arrested. One of our number was accused by a cop of being a'professional protester.' The cop reckoned he recognised the guy's face.
The cop returned my ID and ordered me out of the station, telling me I was banned from there for 6 hours.
A woman who'd been standing watching with a young daughter from the footbridge over the station said she'd started counting the cops but stopped at 20. There were more than that, too many to count. Around 30 maybe.
Walking with my placard on the roadbridge over the railway I was called an idiot by a white woman with a child. She told me not to come stirring up trouble with a provocative sign in her community. Before I could respond a man, possibly Muslim, who'd overheard her, told me he'd lived in Lakemba for 20 years and that I was welcome.
Frustrated at not being allowed to catch a train, our group decided to catch a taxi back to Newtown instead. We got into a cab beside thepark where we'd started our demo. We asked to be taken back to Newtown. The cab driver said it would take too long to get to Newtown in the evening peak hour traffic. He suggested catching a train from Belmore, the next station along towards the city. He took us to Belmore station.
We told him what we'd done and what had happened. He mentioned harassment by 800 cops and told us that nobody was allowed to say anything, there was no free speech. The community had suffered the oppression of saturation policing. Anyone speaking out would be targeted. He warned us to be careful. The authorities could lock you up in an institution, give you a tablet and say you're crazy, then you would be f***ed. He had children and didn't want anything to happen to them so he felt powerless to change the situation.
On the train from Belmore, would you believe it, more cops! They came through the train checking people's tickets. We all had tickets. However the cops discovered that one member of our group had a concession card that was out of date. So they gave him a hard time over that. There were six or eight cops.
On Sunday 5 October there was a bigger event organised. A speakout inthat small park next to Lakemba station on NRL grand final day. Canterbury Bulldogs supporters drove past waving flags, noisily proclaiming allegiance to their team. There was an atmosphere of excitement. We listened to a succession of speakers. There was an open mike. Many people got up and had their say. It was a hot, sunny day.
When the speakout ended a small group of us went to Belmore, where mobs of Bulldogs supporters had taken over the main street near the station. The police wouldn't allow us to march with our banners, but march with them we did once we were out of reach. Cops chased peoplethrough the crowds to stop them displaying the banners.
Some Bulldogs supporters didn't like the banners. I got the feeling they thought politics shouldn't be mixed with sport. I saw a young guy snatch away a big banner being displayed and throw it to the ground.
We realised there was potential for dangerous misunderstanding. A bigbanner reading STOP STATE TERRORISM could be misinterpreted. Muslims could take that as an accusation that they were terrorists. When anarchists talk of the State we mean the government, the (repressive)apparatus of the nation state. Other people might think it means stop terrorism in the state of New South Wales. Or people might think we're tarring Muslims generally with the brush of the Islamic State extremists.
Some of the Bulldogs fans agreed with our message and we chanted energetically together with them, "Side by side!" It felt awesome to be in cross-community solidarity against racism, bigotry and government repression.
The police eventually managed to disperse the small number of political activists in the crowd and pushed some of us down a sidestreet. From there eight of us retreated down a back lane, only to have a drone hovering above us. Whether the machine belonged to the police and was keeping us under surveillance, or whether it was controlled bysomeone else entirely I don't know, but it was a bizarre and unsettling experience. I for one had never seen a drone before.