My account was written on a nightly basis for three days and was accompanied by some 50 photos showing the general atmosphere and peacful nature of the blockade. An account by Ciaron O'Reilly details some of the more practical features of the blockade and some of the police attacks. The Barrett Report clearly intimates that the use of excessive police violence was politically motivated, with the media being culpable in promoting a climate and expectation of violence. All the documentary evidence shows police abusing their power, which contradicts mainstream reports that such violent scenes were caused by protestors.
The Blockade of the Asia Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum was an amazing event to experience. Tens of thousands of people peacefully blockaded Crown Casino beside the Yarra River. The police erected barricades which greatly assisted the task of blockading the many entrances to the building. Blockading also entailed occupying three major arterial roads: Queensbridge street, Kings Way, and Spencer Street. The Crown Casino carpark was blockaded to prevent any vehicles moving in or out.
Some of the delegates - perhaps 50% - were resident in the Crown complex. Most of the delegates who were in other hotels were unable to enter by vehicle. A few were ferried in on police launches and by helicopter to the roof. The Government had gazetted the previous week that only commercial boats were allowed on that part of the Yarra River.
Attempts were made to get people in to Crown Casino by vehicle in the morning. These were largely unsuccessful, but did precipitate police horse charges and baton charges on blockaders. The conservative Premier of Western Australia, Richard Court, was held captive in his vehicle for the best part of any hour. Some blockaders danced on his vehicle, and the tyres were let down, but Court and his driver were physically unharmed.
I spent the best part of five hours blockading at one entrance and walking round the full perimeter. The blockading was extremely peaceful with people sitting on the road interlinked, with a police line on the other side of a barricade. Mostly it was a matter of entertaining ourselves, with songs, nonviolent resistance training, talking and listening to news reports of other gates. There was a constant stream of people circling the perimeter. After early morning rain, there was strong chilly winds for most of the day, although the sun did dare to come out and enliven activity.
There was a feeling of determination and of festivity. There were puppets, humorus graffiti, banners and placards, songs, wandering drummers and minstrels. The crowd was equally diverse with trade unionists, environmentalists, social justice activists, high school students, children, pensioners: a strong diversity of people united in opposition to an undemocratic and powerful elite.
The s11 blockade must be considered a success. Although the forum will continue, tonight the Government anounced that Crown Casino will be closed as a gaming venue for the next two days.
The second day of the Blockade of the Asia Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum started around 7am with mounted police and lines of riot police charging less than a hundred odd people barricading an entrance with civil disobedience. From all eye witness reports the blockaders were seated on the road and were well disciplined. The police attack was a surprise, with no warnings. They were indiscriminately trampled, batoned, kicked and bashed to clear the road to bus in the delegates. Some fifty people needed medical attention, with several needing hospitalisation.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
New Zealand politician Ms Sue Bradford, who was part of the blockade that was forcibly broken by the police to make way for the buses carrying World Economic Forum members, said: "We were given no chance to move. Wave after wave of police came stamping over our heads." Ms Bradford said that 50 of the 100 protesters she was sitting with were seriously injured and 11 were hospitalised.
This is the face of the Bracks Labour Government willing to use excessive police violence to achieve their aims. But then, Steve Bracks is inside as one of the delegates.
When numbers built up later in the morning, the entrance was able to be retaken and locked down. Throughout the day some delegates needed to be ferried in by police launch and by helicopter. This is evidently the only guaranteed way to enter and leave the Casino safely.
At 10.00am people started gathering outside Melbourne Trades Hall for a union rally and march. The union movement has been advocating 'fair trade' not 'free trade'. Some 6,000 - 10,000 people gathered, and then marched down to the main assembly point on Queensbridge St. Giant puppets were part of the parade. Outside Nike, the march stoped to explain how Nike exploits workers in countries like Indonesia. Union marshalls ensured the protest was symbolic.
At the rally near Crown Casino speeches were made by various Union officials and Greens Senator Bob Brown. Bob Brown was the only member of Federal parliament to oppose extensive laws allowing use of the military where there is 'the threat of domestic violence'. Many of those who marched took up an offer to march around the casino complex adding their weight to the human blockading of the many entrances.
Crown Casino has been forced to close down their gambling halls. They reckon they will lose $10 million dollars. Perhaps some people will go home with more of their pay packets this week!
Despite delegates being bused in after an excessively violent attack by the police, the s12 blockade continues being a success.
Global Failures [Workers Online]
Sharan Burrows, President of the ACTU, addressed Forum members and said that the union movement acknowledges the benefits of globalisation but it's time to address the failures.
Unions, the Labor Party and the WEF by Takver [IndyMedia]
A look at some aspects of union involvement inside and outside the WEF, comments by Labor Premiers Brack & Carr, and a list of some relevant media sources. Interactive comments allowed.
S13 started in the morning with another baton charge on about 40 blockaders at the Clarendon Street entrance while most people were at the entrance on Queensbridge street. According to an ABC report:
One of the protesters, Nick, says he and his colleagues were hopelessly outnumbered by police involved in this morning's baton charge. "I saw a woman about 40 that went down and people were just screaming to let her out, let her up... just general people getting hurt, a lot of screaming, a lot of young people going down," he said.
This follows a similar baton charge on Tuesday night to bring the delegates out. Riot police viciously attacked people engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience with more than 20 people needing hospital treatment. The ABC interviewed well known Melbourne entertainer Rod Quantock who said that several friends were hit by police batons in an unprovoked attack:
"Nothing would justify the violence that was there. I was on the ground. I couldn't see who was batoning me. It wouldn't have made a difference. They didn't have ID on anyway," he said. "I was hit all over the body and eventually kneecapped as I tried to stand up. They just came at us. They just attacked us. I saw people with so much blood on their face you couldn't literally tell if they were men or women."
Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, said: "The police action was excellent. They gave the protestors a chance at the first day to behave in a civilised way, they charged when it was necessary to restore law and order." His bidding was done by our esteemed Labour Premier, Steve Bracks, who stated:
"Police have been charged with the responsibility of keeping law and order and keeping the public protected, the delegates protected, and peaceful protesters protected and in that they have done a fantastic job," he said. "Those that have incited disruptive behaviour by throwing missiles are the ones that are causing difficulty for the peaceful and sensible protesters."This makes a mockery of the numerous unprovoked baton charges on peaceful people protesting through civil disobedience techniques. The level of violence by the police had been deliberatly escalated after the successful blockading on the first day.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Up to 200 protesters had been injured by police who had hit them on the head with batons, trampled them with horses, dragged them by the hair, punched, kicked, elbowed and bitten them and driven at high speed to disperse crowds, the team of legal observers said.
Police are also not wearing their identification badges. Legal observers estimate 90 per cent of officers have taken off their name tags. Damien Lawson, of Melbourne's Western Suburbs Legal Centre, said: "This goes to the heart of accountability at this protest. If they can't be identified then they can act with impunity. "There was a young man who was baton-charged and lost two teeth and had to have emergency surgery."
Now we know that Bracks is just another puppet like our Prime Minister, John Howard, with the ear of the rich and powerful. The WEF organisers complained and Bracks and his police minister jumped to obey and ordered the Victorian police to use horses, riot police and batons in unprovoked attacks on peaceful protestors.
Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth told the ABC reporter:
"We've always used civil disobedience. We've always done it according to protocol and that protocol is the police ask you to leave, they remove the protestors, and they arrest them if they believe they've done anything unlawful. The police have broken with 30 years of tradition and they've declared war on peaceful protestors," he said.At lunch time more than two thousand protestors toured the city precinct stopping outside a Nike store and several McDonalds. When they returned to the assembly point outside Crown Casino, a giant multicoloured Gippsland Earthworm puppet led an encirclement of the Crown Casino complex of people linking hands. This act involved thousands of people ringing the Casino complex.
By mid afternoon the blockade was winding down. Why then, did an unmarked police car try to force its way into a group of blockaders? When a person was trapped underneath the car, with people pleading for the car to stop, the driver accelerated running over the person. This person required immediate hospitalisation, and comes at the end of a long list of brutal police attacks and violence at the encoragemment of WEF organisers and conservative politicians, including the Labor Premier, Steve Bracks, and his Deputy, John Brumby.
The excessive use of force by the police will be pursued through the legal system. A legal team, comprising barristers, solicitors, law students and para-legals who came together to give protesters legal information, has taken over 300 statements detailing claims of police using excessive force over the duration of the blockade. Under the Crimes Act 1958 section 462A defines how much force may be used:
"A person may use such force not disproportionate to the objective as he believes on reasonable grounds to be necessary to prevent the commission, continuance or completion of an indictable offence or to effect or assist in effecting the lawful arrest of a person committing or suspected of committing any offence"
by Ciaron O'Reilly
I have just concluded three days of blockading the World Economic Forum at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. I was part of the "Plan B Affinity Group" which included my brother Sean, Melbourne Earth First folks, folks from Brisbane, Redcliffe, Maleny and Sydney.
Around 7 a.m. on the Monday morning we blockaded a bus full of delegates at our gate. The police moved in held us down and unloaded delegates behind their line who made their way from the bus to the entry. We then blockaded the whole gate with more numbers joining us. Buses of delegates were turned around - 300 delegates failed to gain entry during the first day. Settling in - we demanded a self-managed blockade site, where those taking the risks of blockading would make the decisions. We chased one of the Trotskyite marshals away and tamed the other one to service the blockade rather than her party's agenda.
By the time the police came out mid-morning to negotiate entry for the US Olympic basketball team's bus (an assembly of multi-millionaire salesmen for Nike et al), they were negotiating with us rather than the marshals who weren't blockading. The assembled blockaders consensed to deny access for the bus and adopted the policy of nothing in or out. Many WEF delegates, Murdoch/Packer journalists, Crown Casino staff and patrons on foot were nonviolently turned away from the gate. We also adopted a preference for singing not chanting, sitting and linking with a low centre of gravity against police pushing rather than standing, and "omming" at the point of police attack rather than chanting and verbal abuse. There was a great vibe at our site throughout the day.
At 7 a.m. on the Tuesday we joined 30 folks already in a sitting blockade position at that gate. These included two Green Members of Parliament from New Zealand. We had a very nonviolent vibe, plenty of singing, no verbal abuse etc. Fifteen minutes in, the riot squad armed with batons, ran out of the casino and assembled behind police ranks. 150-200 riot police than ran into, over and through our block, many stopping to kick people in the face and groin with their heavy boots, many wielding batons as they went. I was struck in the head several times by batons and kicked in the face. We kept omming. Some folks were screaming in pain. One Lismore woman had her arm broken, one Melbourne man his wrist broken, an Irish guy scored a broken nose. There were head wounds, broken ribs, concussions, loss of blood, pissing blood and glasses smashed. On reflection we felt sitting made our block more resolute and less vulnerable to limb and facial injuries. Membership of an affinity group was a decisive factor in this act of resistance being an empowering rather than a demoralising experience.
Groups of riot police then began snatching people off the blockade. Four police grabbed me by my dreads, legs & arms and dragged me 40 metres on the bitumen away from the rest of the crowd. I was isolated on the far side of the tight riot squad formation that was claiming the intersection in preparation for rapid entry of delegate buses. The police then batoned me around the body and the head, throughout this experience I asked "Have I done anything illegal?", "Am I being charged?" They continued the bashing without any verbal response. They left me in a heap and retreated behind the shoulder to shoulder, batons extended riot formation. The buses were speeding into the casino through a gap in the formation using the far lane. I jumped up and ran across the road managing to take a standing star position in front of the last bus, which screeched to a halt in front of me. I was then jumped by four riot police who batoned me on the road and then dragged me onto the sidewalk against the wall and bashed me again. Interrupted by an ABC film crew they retreated behind the riot formation that had secured the intersection.
I collected myself. I walked up to a metre from the riot formation gave my captive audience a talk on the corrupt institution and wholesale theft they were defending, the conspiracy against the poor that is the WEF and the casino's role of laundering profits from the heroin trade. I told them history belonged to those who can endure not to those who can inflict, unfurled a banner in front of them and sat on the road in prayer.
Once all the buses were in, the riot squad retreated into the casino. The media attention brought to our gate attracted the Marxist groups & marshals with megaphones, mobiles and little respect for the people who had just resisted. There was no way we were going to take back the gate as a self-managed blockading space. Many of our affinity group were injured, so we headed to the makeshift clinic. Four Plan B folks went on to hospital with others who had blockaded with us. We decided to head around to the far side of the casino to see what the Green Bloc affinity groups of eco-activists were up to.
On the other side of the casino we were shocked to find that the union bureaucrats were undermining the blockade by ensuring casino staff could gain access to the site and keep the facility functioning. This may xplain why the Marxist groups had abandoned this site, wishing to avoid a conflict with the Unions. Union bureaucrats were policing and undermining the blockade rather than reinforcing it. It was obvious a lot of phone calls had been made between the Labor Premier's office and Trades Hall the previous evening. On the first day most staff could not gain entry, all were paid in their absence and some were ensconsed in hotels downtown. The Gaming Commission announced the casino would be closed for three days, costing them millions of dollars in lost revenue. We challenged this complicity with debate and began a blockade of nothing in or out - in defiance of the union bureaucrat sell out. Trade Union delegates threatened us, but we remained resolute throughout the day.
We also began to focus on raising the issue of post-arrest (/hospitalisation) solidarity. We decided as an affinity group to choose one movement casualty and organise support for them. We chose the guy who had lost seven of his teeth to a baton charge on the Monday. Over the next couple of days we spoke to the issue of such solidarity, questioned some of the marshals attitudes to people as disposable cannon fodder and passed the hat. We have facilitated raising approx. $870 for this young man. Senator Bob Brown went to the hospital to visit Damien Settle, a young man from Cairns who had lost three teeth to a police baton, contacted his parents and brought a lot of media attention to his plight. We are asking the Green Party to follow through with a similar fund raising for this casualty. We encouraged folks to adopt one person hospitalised or arrested to accompany over the next few months. At the end of Tuesday Plan B reduced with injuries decided to play a pro-active support role for Wednesday blockading and also to end well as a group.
On Wednesday morning, police action similar to the previous day was used on the opposite side of the casino to get the delegate buses into the conference. By mid-morning I wandered around to this side of the casino gave a rap about solidarity and passed the hat. After a while I was chatting to an elderly Franciscan monk, when a squad 30 riot police marched in formation down the road and took up position in front of me. They turned and surrounded me and the monk. They closed in, the sergeant saying he had information I was carrying screws or a weapon in my bag. My thoughts were they were after the money fund raised for the injured or were going to plant something in my bag. As they grabbed me I went limp and slid to the pavement. They flipped me over and put my hands behind my back and carried me behind police lines. With a knee in my back and my hands behind they went systematically through my bag and asked me if I had any weapons. I replied "I'm from the ploughshares movement, show me a weapon and I'll disarm it for you! I am a pacifist." When they let me up Sergeant Wood then said, "You jumped in front of the bus yesterday!" I replied, "I was only doing my job! If you were doing yours as a policeman in a liberal democracy, you would arrest and charge people suspected of an offence and they would be prosecuted in a court. What we have seen is fascism, summary bashings. The only charges have been baton charges!"
Given the Victorian Labor Government's willingness to use fascist police violence in relation to nonviolent civil disobedience, rather than due process of the law; given that Trade Union bureaucrats tried to police and undermine the blockade; given that the moderate anti-casino campaigning churches boycotted the blockade; given how huge and multi-entranced the blockade site was; given how small in number and under resourced we were; given the wealth, power and violence arraigned against us - we did extremely well in closing the casino down, disrupting the World Economic Forum and challenging the rule of corporate power in Melbourne.
Lots of lessons to be learnt, hopefully lots of reflection will follow. The way to enter and go through such a stark confrontation with the violence of the state is in an affinity group, not as an isolated individual. It wasn' t in the interest of Marxist parties to encourage the decentralisation of power of affinity groups. They competed for the rule of the mass (and future recruitment drives) with their marshals, megaphones and mobiles. A lot of anarchist energy was wasted in the fashion statement and posturing that was Black Bloc.
Still and all there was a great crew of heroic "unAustralians", that drew from rank and file members of all groups and beyond. Wonderful folks from the medics to the "food not bombs" crew to artists to folks who put their bodies on the line.
As Dorothy Day once reflected, "If they come for the innocent, without stepping over your body, cursed be your religion and your life!" The ruling elites stumbled as they tried to make the World economic Forum in Melbourne this past September - some didn't make it at all!
All Donations for dental repairs of the victims of police violence can be made c/- "Swords into Ploughshares c/-126 Shaftsbury St., Tarragindi, Brisbane Q. 4121