Anarchism and the City: Revolution and Counter-revolution in Barcelona, 1898-1937, by Chris Ealham, $30.
This is a very exciting and excitable book - the ideas, themes and stories leap from the pages. It's one of the few books in English that looks at Spanish revolutionary development from the street level, from the people in the proletarian quarters, about the lives of ordinary people in their hovels and their daily fights with all levels of authority. It's not what the organisations did or did not do, so much as what the people did, needed, and fought for that then led to their fighting organisations being established and growing.... and after decades of this to revolution. It's not a glossy account, or a simple one, for it has the arguments, the fights, the splits, the reconciliations, within the revolutionary people. And then the disputes between these and the 'struggle for the streets' between ordinary people & revolutionary organisations and the wealthy classes and their desire for a quiet life to enjoy their riches unworried by the miscreants, the poor, the troublemakers and their unwashed ilk. Mostly its a narrative woven throughout with the metahpor of the 'city', its geography, its structures, the way the city was the continuous battleground of daily life, as much as was a strike in a workplace. For example, there is a continuous discussion about how elements of the middle class fought bitterly to destroy the economy of the street traders, many of whom were women who had few other ways to survive, but it was an economy that was independent of the wealthy who wanted to control or eliminate it - the greed of the greedy. It also explores how the rich used the construction and re-construction of the city as weapons to beat down the poor and their organisations. This is a different view and a highly worthwhile one to explore, especially as it raises heaps of questions - not answers - that directly relate to our lives and projects today.
The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror, by John Merriman, $25.
This is an honest book, and not what I expected to find. Merriman is not an anarchist, but has tried to understand what led to the 1890s series of bombings that occurred in Paris by self-described anarchists. He explores the lives and poverty that drove a series of individualists to protest against the system that was destroying them, and in some cases, their families. It's not an approach that I support, nor did many anarchists of their day, but it was very worthwhile reading about what led them to do what they did. I cannot find any such worth in the terror that Imperialism has wrought on the peoples of the Middle East, and those chickens are still coming home to roost, daily, hourly.
The Anarchist Geographer: An Introduction to the Life of Peter Kropotkin, by Brian Morris, $18.
If you haven't read about the extraordinary life of Kropotkin, then this is an excellent place to start. Although it is a bit of a compilation from Morris' other writings, it does a good job at exploring the man's origins, the development of politics from dissident aristocrat (typical of his times) to an revolutionary anarchist. He was born to have had the world at his feet, luxury, servants, and all of the trimmings of the high life, but at a very early age saw through it all and gave it up and went on to survive prison, exile and prison again. And while all this was going, he wrote a lot, laying the foundations of modern anarchism. It's a slim volume, but Morris does a commendable job of presenting the person, his ideas and writings soundly, with empathy and with intelligence. The book also has a good chronology of Kropotkin's life and a very useful bibliography.
At a meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, delegates from four anarchist groups agreed to form a provisional Anarchist Federation Australia. The four founding groups were Jura Books, the Melbourne Anarchist Club, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group and Perth Libertarians. At the meeting a number of individual observers were also present as well as an observer from Black Rose and Black Flag. The provisional Federation is based on this constitution. However the constitution is still being discussed, and changes may be made at the first Congress of the Federation - tentatively scheduled for December 2015 in Melbourne. As well as being geographically diverse, the groups making up the federation have a range of political differences, but we hope to work together cooperatively to spread anarchist ideas in Australia. Other anarchist groups are welcome to join us.
To give some background and context, here is a summary of the current federation process, to the best of our knowledge. It’s based on a few different accounts, leading up to May 2015.
In 2007, some members of the Mutiny Collective called for expressions of interest in holding a conference to discuss the idea of an anarchist federation in Australia and/or NZ. In response to this initiative, the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC) organised a conference held during Easter 2008. About 60 people from across Australia attended and a broad range of views were expressed from opposition to enthusiasm. There were no delegates as such and each participant attended as an individual. While there were some differences in attitude to federation there was a significant amount of common ground. Following on from this, MAC decided in March 2013 to hold the Towards Federation Anarchist Conference in June 2013. It was proposed to invite groups (as opposed to individuals, although individuals were encouraged to attend as observers). A proposed constitution was presented for discussion and about 30 people attended including delegates from MAC, Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (LWSS), and Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG). There were also observers from Anarchist Affinity and Jura. In January 2014, a follow up conference was held at Jura at which delegates from MAC, MACG and Jura attended (and an observer from a Canberra anarchist group). The draft constitution was discussed and suggestions for amending it were made. People from Jura agreed to do another re-draft of the proposed constitution.
In May 2015, Jura completed a re-draft of the constitution, which was then circulated. There was also an open discussion about federation as part of one of the workshops at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, on Saturday 13th June 2015.
Over the last few years, there has also been a fair bit of online discussion about the federation, for example on Libcom and Facebook.
We also intend for the federation to develop a ‘Statement of Shared Positions’ and a program of activities/projects, in the near future, which will give it more form and substance.
Groups that have been contacted about the federation at some point since March 2013:
- Anarchist Affinity (Melbourne) - Declined to send a delegate but did send an observer to the 2013 conference, a statement was made stating that while Anarchist Affinity supported the idea in principle, they were not ready to proceed and indicated that they would take no further part at this stage.
- BAG (Brisbane) - Agreed to proceed on the basis of the proposed constitution in April 2013. Subsequently re-affirmed in January 2014.
- Black Flag (Western Sydney) - Contacted in person by Jura people in 2015. Current position on the federation unknown.
- Black Rose (Sydney) - Was initially contacted through what came to be discovered a defunct email account. Was contacted again in person by Jura people in 2014. Held a meeting to discuss the federation. Current position on the federation unknown.
- Black Swan (Adelaide) - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.
- Brisbane Solidarity Network - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.
- Byron Bay Anarchists - Requested a copy of proposed constitution in 2014 but no response since. MAC unable to independently confirm the existence of the group.
- Grupo de Melbourne - This is a group of the remaining Spanish exiles. A member came to MAC to express disappointment that they had not been invited to participate. Subsequently sent the January 2014 version of the proposed constitution by MAC. Discussed the proposed constitution over a weekend in May 2014 to develop a submission. Currently awaiting an English translation.
- Jura (Sydney) - Had an observer participate in the June 2013 conference and hosted the January 2014 conference at which the proposed constitution was discussed. Discussed, amended and agreed on the May 2015 draft of the constitution. Hosted the meeting on 14th June 2015, at which two Jura delegates attended, and it was agreed that the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia be formed.
- Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (Melbourne) - LWSS sent a submission and a delegate to June 2013 conference. Some of the LWSS submission was incorporated into the current proposed constitution. Since then, there has been no follow-up contact with LWSS. Current position on the federation unknown.
- Melbourne Anarchist Club - Initiators of the current project to found an anarchist federation. Two MAC delegates attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
- Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - Sent two delegates to June 2013 Conference and January 2014 conference. The MACG have expressed support and a desire to have the principles of 'the platform' incorporated into the constitution. Has participated in two joint meetings with the MAC to discuss the proposed constitution and have proposed some additions and modifications which were incorporated into the proposed constitution that was presented to the January 2014 conference. One MACG delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
- Perth Libertarians - A meeting of of anarchists in Perth was held on 12 September 2014 and a decision was made to form a group with a view to federating in accordance with the proposed constitution (Jan 2014 version). One Perth Libertarians delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
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Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-libertarian Thought and British writers from William Morris to Colin Ward, David Goodway.
This book so excites me that I'm reviewing it before finishing reading it. Goodway gave a talk/book launch when in Sydney a couple of years ago, which was great, but nothing like delving into each of the fascinating essays that comprise this masterful work. Not that I agree with all his points and positions, but it provides a richness of thought and analysis of a huge range of authors, from many I know little or nothing about to the famous, like William Morris, E P Thompson, Herbert Read, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell. It's not just that he brings out the anarchist connections in their thoughts and writing, but about their interactions and debates, and the part many played as activists. Stimulating.
The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings On Anarchist Economics, (Editors) Deric Shannon, Anthony J. Nocella 11, & John Asimakopoulos.
As the title suggests, this is another of the several recent works that aim to develop a modern approach to 'anarchist economics', a topic that I've been getting into lately. Overall, this collection of essays helps to confirm my contention that there is no such thing as 'marxist economics', however some of the authors still mistake Marx and Engles' analysis of capitalism for a statement on economics. This is my major critique, but doesn't apply to all the authors represented here. On the very positive side, there is a broad inclusion of many aspects of what an understanding of economics should include, and topics that anarchists have been writing about and putting into practice for generations. Economics is often a scarey topic for some, but this treatment isn't.
Kontrrazvedka: The Story of the Makhnovist Intelligence Service, V. Azarov.
Black Cat Press has published several books from new research on the Russian Revolution. We know of the betrayals of the Bolsheviks and the heroics of the Makhnovists, but often the details are missing, this slim book fills in some very interesting and critical information. The lessons learned from these studies describes how hard it is to maintain an insurrection, and the variety of resources needed: 'insurrection' as distinct from 'revolution'. One interesting anecdote was about Maria Nikiforova, who led an anarchist detachment much like Makhno. At one point they pulled guns on each other - relax, it was sorted out, she got the resources needed and headed off to blow up some Whites and free the Makhnovist General Staff that Trotsky had arrested, unfortunately already shot when she got there.
Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Michael Schmidt.
A brief but important book that seeks to explore the wide range of anarchist movements across the globe - hence the 'cartography' in the title. Schmidt follows the approach of a previous publication 'Black Flame' in that he covers only anarchism from 1868 onwards, continuing with the thesis that anarchism began then. Yes, I have serious trouble with that notion, but not with the breadth of information in this book. Many popular movements are covered, albeit briefly, and several of them I'd not heard of, didn't know of their extent, or had only read a whisper of information about them, eg, the ZZZ of Poland, the 1928 East Asian Anarchist Federation and the strange Manchurian Revolution of 1929-31 - among many others. This is more than just a catalogue of events, it also holds interesting analysis and shows the international linkages that led to millions of people aligning with anarchist organisations.
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!
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.