World Economic Forum protest
msbrown at cwcom.net
Mon Sep 11 19:18:29 BST 2000
Melbourne protest-A report from DestroyIMF.
Forwarded by Colin Lloyd
The first day of the protest was an unqualified success. More than 10,000 blockaded the Crown Casino, which is very impressive considering that the official union movement effectively was boycotting S11 (the BBC world service said 1,500, which is a gross lie). We did not close down the WEF, but we did severely disrupt it. The forum started late because delegates could not get in, and when it did start 300-400 delegates (out of around 1000 said to be attending) were locked out by the blockade. They were unable to get in for the rest of the day. There were around 100 injuries on our side, including several hospitalised, but, amazingly, only two arrests. Four cops were hospitalised with 'crush' injuries, and one Crown security guard had his jaw broken. Never mind.
The day started for us in darkness. Arriving at 06.30, it was raining hard and unseasonably cold. But no one was deterred. The bruised sky and torrential rain only added to the drama. Several thousands had already gathered by 07.00. Crusty old activists, fresh faced school students, helmeted environmentalists, masked anarchists, people dressed as nuclear bombs[!], and wild eyed revolutionaries stood shoulder to shoulder. The entire perimeter of Crown Casino had been surrounded by an eight foot wall of concrete and webbed steel. The graffiti said it all: 'Welcome to Melbourne zoo, please don't feed the animals.' The only gaps in the wall were the entrances. Here there were hundreds of cops (over 2000 in total had been mobilised for the front line defense of the WEF, with more in reserve) at the ready with their batons. In a way, the wall actually helped us to focus our forces. There were only about six possible entrances, so we concentrated there and blockaded them all. Some of the most serious action of the day took place when the cops tried to clear a path to an entrance with only about 60 protestors. They were screaming out for help. More of us waded in. Within about 45 seconds about 500 people had materialised from seemingly nowhere. The cops breached the blockade but it simply reformed around them like a giant human octopus. They did so again, but with the same result. They sent in the horses. One guy went completely limp, like a rag doll, slumped to the ground and was trampled by horses. The cops dragged him off. The line held. When the threat had passed we moved on to another entrance. On the way, we came across a vehicle down one of the alleys, which looked like a cross between a fork lift and a moveable platform. A few of us leapt on it and miraculously got the thing to start. When we got the hang of it he did a 180 degree turn, and drove the vehicle at a sedate pace back to the green bloc blockade. Feet astride, chin up and towering about nine feet above the crowd, the comrade in charge was greeted as a returning liberator. We still do not know what these machines are called, but can say with certainty that he is a legendary operator of them! At the next blockade point the cops showed how truly befuddled they were. Cops on horses at the entrance had sandwiched protestors between themselves and another thin line of cops. The cops on horses started pushing forward. Instead of resisting, the protestors simply went with the direction of the push from behind and broke through the police lines in front, swamping the bus-full of delegates that was supposedly about to get through. Here I saw one of the most heroic acts of the day: a masked anarchist did a kamakaze run at the bus, leaping six feet off the ground to end up in a horizontal position clinging to the wire mesh on the bus's windscreen. He looked like a human fly. His hang-time was about three or four seconds before he was monstered by cops. Happily, dozens of activists leapt to his rescue, skittling a motorbike cop in the act. At about 10.00 the first collective mobilisation of about 400 high school students arrived. They met the main contingent at Flinder's St. It was a great sight when the students arrived. They were all running in formation along the South Bank of the Yarra river, some waving Workers Power placards with our name and slogan. Later in the day one of the more memorable events took place when Western Australian Conservative Premier, Richard Court, was trapped in his car for one hour by protestors. The crowd surrounded the car and slashed all four tires. They then doused it in green paint. An Aboriginal protestor jumped on the bonnet and started giving Court a history lesson about Aboriginal dispossession, through the glass of his windscreen. The same protestor then moved to the roof and started doing an indigenous dance (a victory jig, I think). After one hour the special police waded in like maniacs, indiscriminately flailing their batons. Here some of the worst injuries were sustained. One guy had his nose broken and lost most of his front teeth. Others were taken to hospital. After the incident Richard Court claimed, with stunning insight and a gift for words, that the surrounding of his car had been 'un-Australian'. The Melbourne Mayor, Peter Costigan, said that it was despicable, the act of a tiny minority making trouble for the vast majority! John Howard said it was shameful. The police chief said that it was disgraceful. I thought that it was great. In the afternoon things slowed down a little, with both protestors and police in a holding pattern as far as the blockade was concerned. Occasionally word would come through that cops were amassing at one of the entrances. Hundreds of people would rush there to reinforce it. This was one of the great things about the whole day - the communication and flexibility. The age of the mobile phone has made a huge difference to effective demonstrations. There always seemed to be people ready at hand to reinforce any weak spots. As the afternoon wore on, the weather improved and the whole rally turned into more of a carnival atmosphere. There were bands, reggae and spontaneous rap, and lots of young people dancing in the street, confirmation that for once they were in control of public space. During this time we paid more attention to our stall and the selling of REVO and the new edition of Workers Power. We have not yet calculated numbers sold, but I think that the sales were very strong if my own experience is anything to go by. We also gave out lots of leaflets and invited many people to our public meeting next Saturday. The last flurry of action occurred in the late afternoon, as some delegates left. This was limited mainly to noisy declarations of victory, in the face of dejected cops and delegates. S11 was the leading news story on all of the TV channels, receiving up to 15 minutes of a 60 minute news program on channel ten. Of course they concentrated on the alleged violence of the demonstration, but they could not deny that the WEF had been severely disrupted - a bit of a bummer for the delegates, some of whom were paying $22,000 per night for the privilege of staying at Crown (yes, $22,000). The balance sheet today: 100% fantastic. Tomorrow we'll have to wait and see how the union bureaucracy plays their cards. but today has set the tone, and it will be very hard for them to keep a lid on things as they hope. What we can expect is a lot more people tomorrow. I think that all who were there today will be back tomorrow, and there will be all of the unionists on top of that. I hope that I will be writing you an even more up-beat report tomorrow.
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