Sydney rally - half a million march

Kim Bullimore k_bullimore at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 16 05:00:28 MST 2003


comrades,
Just got back from the Sydney rall (after having a celebratory ale with
comrades and then watching the news at the Resistance centre). The rally was
truly amazing!!  Who would have believed half a million people would turn
out!!!

After Melbourne, everyone in Sydney was absolutely on a high and were hoping
we could match them (traditionally Melbourne usually out does Sydney).  The
first figure floated by the organisers was 250,000 and everyone was
absolutely stoked by that, but that was soon reassessed to a half a million.
  Even the tabloid papers and other news outlets (who had helicopters
overhead) put the figure at half a mill.

Most of us arrived at Hyde Park just after 10.00 am to set up.  A crowd of
probably between 500 - 800 people or more already there and people just
didn't stop coming.  Hyde Park is located in the CBD and is actually two
huge  parks, (divided by one of the main CBD roads- Park St) .  I was
located at St James Station near the stage (St James is the main public
train station location/main entrance to Hyde Park North from the city)
People  were just coming in, in droves.  A trade union rally marched up from
the Town Hall (about 3 city blocks away) at 11.30 am (not sure of the size)
and by that stage the crowd was so huge, people had completely overflowed
into Elizabeth St.

Comrades who came from the north and south coast reported that every train
leaving Newcastle (hour and half north) and Wollongong (hour and half south)
  from 8.30 am in the morning was packed.  Even though in Wollongong, the
anti-war coalition was able to convince NSW Rail to put on extra train
carriages, people were still packed in.  Apparently, when the train got to
Sydney Central, the public system announcement gave instructions on how to
get to the rally and the train station indicator simply read "NO WAR".
Public transport was completely overloaded, apparently hundreds of people
who were not able to get trains from the North Shore of Sydney, ended up
marching across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is about a 6 km - maybe
more -walk to get to the rally.

The rally consisted of 11 speakers, 5 at the beginning and 6 after the
march.  The march route looped around the city, beginning and ending at Hyde
Park.

Our contingent (Socialist Alliance) waited almost two hours before we could
march (after an hour we had only moved 50 metres).  Everyone was good
humoured, singing, dancing, chanting.  The beginning of the rally, soon
looped around and was back in the park before the vast majority of people
had even moved off.   At one point, the call came for a mass sit down and
suddenly there were half a million people sitting down on the streets of
Sydney.

The cops were completely overwhelmed by the turn out and began to divert
people off the march route in to the Domain (one of Sydney's other major
parks), so thousands of people ended up a couple of kilometres from the
rally end.  The aerial shots from the commercial news channels showed that
crowds had overflowed into Hyde Park South (the second part of Hyde Park),
Elizabeth St and Park St.

By the time our contingent marched and had arrived back at Hyde Park (and
there were still between 3,000 - 6,000 behind us), the second half of the
rally had actually finished up.   People were still everywhere though lining
the streets, chanting, singing and laughing.  We walked back through the
city to the Trades Hall pub (about 20 mins from the park) and every where
you went there were people who had been at the rally relaxing in coffee
shops, pubs, cafes etc.

Some of the favourite chants were:
Troops Out,
Ain't no power like the power of the people and the power of the people
won't stop.
The biggest terrorists in the world today: George Bush and the CIA
and of course, simply No War

It was a truly amazing day.  As Gary said it is too early to judge the
impact on the Howard government yet, but yesterday Howard and Downer were
definitely down playing the rallies around Australia and the world. Howard
went as far as saying "public opinion cannot be measured by the hundreds of
thousands of Australians who turned out at anti-war rallies over the
weekend".

The Australian editoral, as Ben pointed out was a rehash of Cold War
rhetoric, as well as an attempt to construct an apologia for those who
support war (the Australian editorials have been prowar and they must now be
feeling the heat of public opinion a bit, which is why they have tried to go
for the redbaiting of Pilger). According to the editorial "to oppose war is
a fine and honourable thing. But it would be quite wrong to assume that
those who support the Iraq policy of the US, British and Australian
governments do not oppose war, even if they will not be marching this
weekend" (!!).  It will be interesting to read what they have to say
tommorrow, as well as Howard and Downer (Foreign Affairs Minister).

Also caught some of the footage of the New York rally tonight - o' boy, and
I thought only the Australian cops were that stupid!  From what I could tell
by the world round up on SBS (the multi-lingual public service broadcaster
here in Australia)  the only "scuffles" and "violence" was that caused by
the police in New York.

comradely,
Kim B











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