Blockading Nike in Melbourne

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Mon May 21 20:21:28 MDT 2001

Tom O'Lincoln asked me to forward this to the LIst:

Blockading Nike in Melbourne

An interesting struggle has developed here. It began before the May 1st "M1"
actions, sort of accidentally. It's traditional for left groups to sell
papers in the Bourke Street Mall on Friday after work, and recently we've
done some sales outside a big Nike store which is across the road from the
Mall. Eight weeks ago, some people began blockading it, i.e. linking arms
and blocking access to the store from 6 to 7 pm each Friday. We've been
doing it every Friday since.

The police spent several weeks looking for ways to get on top of this, but
never succeeded. It's not easy for them to just break heads in this State.
So Nike was effectively being shut down for an hour once a week.

After M1, the turnout was smaller and I personally thought perhaps the whole
thing was in decline. Just at that point, however, the authorities did us a
favour. City Council officers arrived to inform us it was illegal to
leaflet, and recalcitrants would get a $500 fine. They took some names and
addresses. Then they started moving to confiscate literature tables. A
section of people who had lined up to blockade Nike peeled off and formed a
protective cordon around the tables. Groups of people defiantly tried to
hand leaflets to the Council officers.

It was becoming a circus, but then the cops attacked the blockade, bringing
in police horses. This was enough to break up the lines of linked arms;
chaotic scenes followed, with the likelihood of anyone entering the store
even less than before. I've noticed lately that quite a few demonstrators
here have learned how to quieten police horses. We have lots of seasoned
blockaders now; this is why the cops are at their wits end.

The issue of fines for leafletting was fought out during the Vietnam war.
That the authorities should try it again was very daring of them, and it
backfired. -- I tried to warn them when they started, but who listens to me
these days? :-) -- The unions protested to the City Council, and union
leaders started coming along to the blockade the following Friday (last

So did about 200 other people, most of whom lined up row upon row to
blockade the store. The Council decided to back off on fining people. It was
a sizeable victory, and there is now some prospect of these Nike blockades
spreading. Unfortunately the police paid us back for their humiliation by
beating up a couple of comrades, one of them severely.

On Friday 28 May the cops left us alone, because the Australian
Manufacturing Workers' Union responded to the previous week's outrages by
mobilising a contingent. There was a big crowd generally, and between that
and the union banners, the cops weren't game to attack us.

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