Melbourne demo report

Ben Courtice benj at connexus.net.au
Sat Mar 29 02:45:59 MST 2003


See below for a preview of a write-up for Green Left -- this will
appear, after the editors have their way with it, next week.

For those who haven't heard yet, the Socialist Alliance is calling for
the parliamentary opposition parties to block the war budget, thus
precipitating a double dissolution election to make Howard face the
people. So far I think all these parties -- even the Greens -- have
equivocated at best on this; the ALP has opposed the idea.

As far as rally numbers go, I counted what looked like 10-15 000 while
the speakers were being heard at the start, although the State Library
area is not easy to take in all at once and there could have been more
people further up the hill that I didn't see. The march stretched for
at least 3 city blocks, taking about 25-30 minutes to pass me at the
Mall, which would seem to indicate around 25-30 000 marching. Sadly
many did not stick around at the end to hear Reihana Mohideen who gave
a great anti-imperialist speech (and received strong applause from the
5000 or so who stuck around to listen).

--------------------------
Over 30,000 march for peace
By Ben Courtice

MELBOURNE--Victorian Peace Network organizers estimate 35-40 000
people attended the March 29 protest against war. The rally stretched
for over three city locks, led by waving Palestinian and Iraqi flags,
and chanting "Stop killing the people of Iraq" and "Block the budget
in May - give the people a say".

As the crowd assembled, rally convener Dave Sweeney presented a panel
of speakers from the three parliamentary opposition parties. Greens
Senator Kerry Nettle, speaking first, condemned the war on Iraq -
"human bombing" not "humane bombing" - as being like that against
Palestine, and likely to breed a "new generation of extremists". The
last 50 years of Palestinian history show, she said, that only social
justice and self-determination can bring peace. She ended calling to
bring home the troops and end the UN sanctions on Iraq.

Labor MP for the seat of Melbourne, Lindsay Tanner, condemned the
Howard government for betraying a commitment to act through the UN,
for not condemning the detention of Australians in Guantanamo Bay, and
for locking up Iraqi refugees in the desert then sending them back to
Iraq to be bombed. Presenting the UN as the ultimate solution to
self-determination struggles like East Timor and West Papua, and
conflicts such as between India and Pakistan, Tanner condemned Howard
for going beyond US "deputy sheriff" to "global vigilante". Tanner did
not comment on the large banner raised behind him by the Socialist
Alliance, which said "Block the budget - force Howard to an election".
He ended his speech calling for all troops to be brought home now, as
did the Democrats speaker Lyn Allison - who also condemned the
abandoning of UN frameworks for conflict resolution.

After the march through the city ended, Reihana Mohideen, from the
Asian Peace Network condemned the "imperial arrogance" that suggested
the war would be "quick and easy". The hypocrisy of the sham hunt for
weapons of mass destruction was evident to the people of Asia, she
said, who had experienced the carpet bombing of Vietnam, Laos and
Cambodia, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. She warned that the
war could spread - "if we don't stop this war we could be next". She
praised the Mid-East people's "strong history of resisting
colonialism", raising the hope for ending the war: "the other global
power today - people's power". Mohideen finished with the slogan of
the global justice movement, "a new world is possible, and a new world
is necessary".

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