Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Uprising - contours and consequences of the Arab Spring - Thurs 2 June

Contours and Consequences of the Arab Spring
A Forum Presented by Friends of Palestine WA
Syed Dashlooty (Australian-Arab Friendship Association)
Abdullah Sheiki (Perth Libyan community)
Alex Whisson (Public Affairs Officer, Friends of Palestine WA)
Atalla Abbas (Memeber of the Shia Muslim Council)
Thurs June 2, 6 for 6.30pm
Venue: Fox Lecture Theatre, Arts Faculty, University of Western Australia
Entry by donation
Contact: 0449 028 894 or FriendsOfPalestineWA@gmail.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#SpanishRevolution in Fremantle

Support action in Perth, Australia for the #SpanishRevolution - a movement for "real democracy" that is occupying town and city plazas in Spain.

Free Bradley Manning support action in Peth

Over 50 people supported a protest action in Perth on May 28 to call for freedom for presumed WikiLeaks source, whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Speakers pointed out the contrast between war criminals like George Bush and Barak Obama who have not been punished for their crimes and heroes like Bradley Manning who has been punished with over 12 months incarceration - much of it under conditions of torture - who has never even faced trial let alone been convicted of any crime.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

If you support WikiLeaks, support Bradley Manning - speakout Sat 28 May

Speakout for Bradley Manning – Whistle-blowing is not a crime
Sat 28 May 2011

1pm, Murray St Mall, Perth city (near Forrest Place)

[Bradley Manning is the presumed whistle-blower who provided information to WikiLeaks - imprisoned since May 26, 2010, most of that time in solitary confinement and under torture conditions - despite not having been found guilty of any crime.]

Who is Bradley Manning?
Bradley Manning is a 23 year old American who grew up enjoying science and playing the saxophone and video games. He is a gay rights activist. He joined the US army in 2007 and was sent to work in Iraq in 2009. In May 2010 he was discharged.

Private Bradley Manning was arrested on suspicion of leaking classified US military documents to the online publisher Wikileaks.
Manning faces 22 charges including "aiding the enemy by indirect means" which could see him facing life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Bradley Manning has since been held in solitary confinement since May 26 2010 and has reportedly been subject to torture and intense interrogation. For a year he has been kept without adequate exercise, social interaction, sunlight and occasionally has been kept completely naked.

All this for blowing this whistle on war crimes?!

So, let's have a speak out in the city and let people know that his treatment is unacceptable.
Let's show people that he has done nothing wrong.
Let's stand up for Bradley Manning.

So on Saturday you should:
Come down, show your support, share your thoughts, pass around some flyers and do your bit for Bradley Manning.

AND jump on these websites:
and sign their online petitions calling for better treatment and freedom for Bradley Manning.

YouTube video here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Second protest for homeless people's rights pre CHOGM

Thirty people marched from the Stirling Gardens to parliament house on May 17 to protest the state governments plans to remove homeless people from the city centre for three days during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Protesters were angry about the fact that $9 million dollars had been earmarked for the refurbishment of Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park for a CHOGM leaders social function. In addition, tens of millions of dollars have been allocated to refurbish ministerial offices.

Meanwhile, 55,000 people are on the Homeswest waiting list for public housing.

The protesters said public housing was the most important solution to the problem. Placards carried included: “Don't sweep the homeless off the streets for CHOGM”', “more public housing” and “public housing: a right not a privilege”.

In response to government plans to try to hide homeless people from the foreign dignities attending CHOGM, Catholic Church outreach worker Mark Reidy told Green Left Weekly: “They need public housing, instead of pretending the problem doesn’t exist.”

Shadow housing minister Mark McGowan and Liberal police minister Rob Johnson spoke to protesters but neither offered any commitment towards more public housing nor practical solutions for the homeless over the CHOGM period. McGowan promised to write a policy statement before the next election due in 2013.

He also tried to shift all blame to the current Liberal government, ignoring the poor track record of the previous Labor government that he was part of.

Refugee Rights Action Network activist and social worker Marcus Hamson, who participated in the protest, told GLW: “It was great that the protesters were able to confront Rob Johnson about the flippant remarks he made towards assisting those living on the streets during CHOGM and to force him to apologise.

“However, I was disturbed that he tried to argue that his time as a struggling university student was comparable to the hardship of long-term homelessness experienced by those who organised the protest.

“His comments reflect how little he understands the experience of homelessness and demonstrates the ignorance with which government policy is being shaped.”

[This article by Alex Salmon was first published in Green Left Weekly #880.]

Memorial for Vic Williams

Come and celebrate the life of comrade Vic Williams

At the MUA Hall,
Level 1, 2-4 Kwong Alley,
North Fremantle, WA, 6159
Sunday 29th may 2011 at 2.30pm
RSVP Gaby Williams
M- 0404 233 980, h-9332 1983

Communist, wharfie, trade unionist, poet, writer and fighter for all working class people!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Behind the wall of silence in occupied Western Sahara

The Australia Western Sahara Association

Behind the wall of silence in occupied Western Sahara

Aicha Dahane

International Officer, Forum for the Future of Saharawi Women & human rights activist

Thursday 19 May 6:30pm

Reception Room, Fremantle Town Hall
Enter via stairs and patio at rear of Town Hall

Africa’s last colony For 36 years the people of Western Sahara have been striving for self-determination. Morocco invaded the country in 1975 after Spain withdrew. It continues to block the decolonisation process, obstructing the UN referendum. Aicha Dahane’s tour will raise awareness of this struggle and build support for self-determination for the Saharawi people.

Aicha Dahane grew up in Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation. In 2002, following harassment by police during her law studies in Rabat, she sought asylum in the UK. She is in daily contact with her family in El Aaiun and is International Officer for the Forum for the Future for Saharawi Women. She is the sister of human rights defender, Brahim Dahane.

The WA connection The wealth of Western Sahara is spread across our farmlands. Wesfarmers subsidiary CSBP Fertilisers at Kwinana imports phosphate mined in Western Sahara by the Moroccan state company OCP. This trade is unethical and supports a violent military occupation. The resources of Western Sahara do not belong to the Moroccan government. No country in the world recognises its claim to Western Sahara. The trade must stop now.

Aicha Dahane has been invited by the Australia Western Sahara Association, assisted by: Union Aid Abroad (Apheda), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Australian Services Union, Communication Electrical & Plumbing Union, Australian Workers Union, State School Teachers Union WA, CPSU-Civil Service Association, Melissa Parke MHRFremantle City Council & Senator Scott Ludlam.

WA contact: Michele 0419 942 045 or Sam 0412 751 508

Monday, May 16, 2011

Photos from Green Left Weekly May Day dinner

Photos by Desire Mallet - with much appreciation

Wayne Woods from the Australian Services Union and Marc Amata from the newly formed Perth branch of Thai Red Shirts Australia were two of the activists to give greetings to the successful Green Left Weekly dinner in Fremantle on May 14.

Around 100 people attended the dinner at the MUA hall which raised over $2000 for Green Left Weekly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Opposition to NATO war on Libya in Perth Voice report

The Perth Voice report on the April 30 rally by Libyan community in Perth gives voice to antiwar viewpoints.

Under the headline "Libyans wary of NATO", rally organiser Abdullah Sheikhi is quoted saying that the Libyan community is wary of the western intervention.

"We know as Libyans that in this world these days, nothing comes for free, and we know that NATO or the coalitions, they don't come to Libya because they love Libyans, we know this. They come because they have their own interests."

The article also quotes Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor Alex Bainbridge saying that "a regime change imposed by western missiles and western military action is not going to result in a genuine democratic Libya".

"Under the guise of opposing Gaddafi, they're taking the struggle to oppose Gaddafi out of the hands of the people."

"The biggest danger is that we're going to get a Gaddafi-like regime without Gaddafi, backed by the west."

Around 100 people attended the rally which was addressed by both Sheikhi and Bainbridge as well as Giovanni Torre and Alex Whisson. Most placards focused on the need to remove Gaddafi with popular chants including "1, 2, 3, Libya must be free".

The rally demanded recognition by the Australian government of the National Transitional Council in Libya as the "sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people" whereas genuine popular democracy for Libya is actually more complicated than that. The leading figures of the Transitional Council are now more likely to be former representatives of the Gaddafi regime and/or people aligned with the CIA than the grassroots revolutionaries that began the democracy movement.

Photos from the rally

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What do socialists say about refugees and racism?

Where does opposition to refugees come from?
Why has Labor resurrected Howard's policies?
Will there ever be an end to racism?

After the Curtin Convergence for refugee rights and this weekend's upcoming national Resistance conference, we're looking to swing back into our weekly planning meetings/educationals.

Our next meeting is planned for Wednesday 11th of May @ 6pm and will feature the discussion topic:

What Do Socialists say about racism and refugee rights
6pm, Wed 18 May
Perth Activist Centre (15 / 5 Aberdeen St, East Perth - next to McIver station)

For more details: Chris on 0415 922 740, or Alex 0413 976 638.

CHOGM Action Network website launched

The CHOGM Action Network - which is planning a mass protest march on the first morning of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) - has launched a website to spread word about the protest plans.

Current plans for the protest are to begin with a mass rally in Perth's Forrest Place and to march towards the Convention Centre where the CHOGM summit will be held.

The rally will begin:

9am, Friday 28 October
Forrest Place, Perth CBD

The website can be found at: www.chogmprotest.org

Initial publicity material can be downloaded from here.

Arrests, lies and videotape - Curtin convergence reportback

Refugee Rights Action Network is planning a reportback from the convergence on the Curtin Detention Centre for:

6:30pm, Tuesday 10 May 2011
Citiplace Community Centre (above Perth Train Station)

The campaign to end mandatory detention is again growing as the camps and detention centers reach breaking point.

The Refugee Rights Action Crew has first hand accounts of conditions in the camp, extensive communication with the asylum seekers imprisoned there to share, as well as dramatic stories of pain & courage.

We will expose the lies, incompetence & deliberate misinformation campaign by Serco & DIAC, plus discuss ways to bring the campaign forward.

We at RRAN were humbled to be up at Curtin in solidarity with the hundreds and hundreds of real refugee activists: the men in the camp.

MORE INFO: Refugee Rights Action Network

Monday, May 2, 2011

Full report from Curtin Convergence for refugee rights

Forty refugee rights activists travelled by bus from Perth to Curtin Detention Centre in the remote Kimberley region of WA over the Easter long weekend. Several others joined the convergence at nearby Derby.

This was the latest convergence on a refugee detention centre organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN).

Most refugee detention centres are located in remote locations to create a physical divide between refugees and the broader population. The convergence aimed to bridge this divide.

In the lead up to the trip, participants sent 100 applications to visit detainees, but received contradictory replies. This included the suggestion that all visits would be cancelled over Easter.

One person was even given the impression that he would be able to visit as long as he was not part of the RRAN convergence.

Even as the bus approached the Curtin prison — which is what the detention centre amounts to — activists were unsure about whether any visits would be allowed.

We also received information that the detainees inside had been incorrectly told that our bus had turned around and the convergence had been cancelled.

When activists got off the bus on the afternoon of April 23 we found that a temporary fence had been erected across the access road to the centre. Officials from the Australian military, the federal police and the state police gave legalistic warnings and purported to approve a conditional right to protest on the west side of the fence.

We were also told that not a single application to visit for that day had been received and that we would have to wait to see if visits would be allowed. Later we discovered that refugee advocates from NSW were inside visiting at that moment and that they had seen a visiting schedule with many of our names on it.

Locals who visit regularly told us that the normal process for visiting was much more relaxed and that the fence and other restrictions were created especially for us.

We also discovered that an electric fence around the prison was turned on in the days leading up to our visit.

After more than two hours of delays and excuses (and explicit lies), the visiting hours (artificially restricted for our visit) expired and we were told that no visits would be possible that day. We were also given no explicit promise that visitors would be allowed into the prison the next day either.

That evening we heard the shocking claim from NSW activists who had visited that day that quite a number of detainees had been bunked in dormitories made from shipping containers with up to 40 people in each. We also heard that 700 detainees (out of 1500) had signed a petition calling on management to let us visit, a hunger strike had commenced inside the prison and that detainees were calling for a group visit.

In contrast to the usual visiting arrangements, the private prison operator, Serco, had planned to host visits in eight rooms, isolated from the main compound and under the watch of detention guards.

We resolved to achieve the group visit detainees were calling for.

The next morning — Easter Sunday — was the main day of visiting and protesting. Serco guards greeted us with an invitation for the first eight activists to go in an visit. We soon discovered that the refugees inside were refusing individual visits in favour of the group visit they were demanding. The initial visitors were able to pass in a note explaining that we were supporting their demand for group visits and to bring out a message explaining the detainees demands for a group visit.

In solidarity with the detainees, we also boycotted the one-on-one visits and began demanding the right to visit in the compound – as is the usual practice for social visits.

Serco guards then began encouraging non-English speaking detainees who had already received their visa (and who wouldn't want to upset their chances of passing security checks) to request individual visits in an attempt to undermine the solidarity of the hunger striking detainees. We resolved to continue our boycott of individual visits but to send a written message explaining our reasons and explaining that activists remaining in Derby would be able to visit in coming days.

Serco guards refused to pass on the written message.

After much delay, the Immigration Department officials decided to refuse any group visits.

Activists responded by organising a peaceful sit-in on the road leading into the detention centre. Despite having another access road and not a single vehicle wanting to enter the compound, police cleared the road arresting sixteen activists. Each received a move-on notice with a stipulation that they not return to the site for 24 hours.

Parallel with these protests and attempts to organise visits, lawyer Julian Gormly was organising legal visits with detainees. Para-legals assisting Gormly heard of the existence of the ``crying tree'' – a tree detainees climb when they need to cry in despair about the situation they're in.

They were also able to confirm that some detainees were housed in shipping container-like dormitories. Immigration spokespeople have vehemently denied the existence of these shipping containers but activists are confident – from several sources – that they exist.

If the government wants to deny their existence, a simple remedy would be to allow independent journalists to enter the prison with cameras and freedom to inspect the conditions and talk with detainees.

By April 25, the hunger strike had grown to involve hundreds of people. However detainees began collapsing in the extreme heat. Dozens required medical attention that morning to be joined by others through the day.

A small group attempted to visit the detainees in a non-protest environment in order to check on the situation and offer support. This application of the normal visiting arrangements was refused by the prison management. After refusal, activists responded with another protest during which part of the temporary fence fell down.

Despite the consistent themes of refusal and lies from Serco and the Immigration Department, the Curtin Convergence was an important and successful solidarity exercise.

Prior to the convergence, not much was known by refugee advocates about the situation at Curtin. As a result of the convergence, and the associated visits by activists and Gormly's legal team, the refugee movement is now in a much better position to campaign for the interests of the Curtin detainees.

Immigration officials have responded to the Curtin hunger strike (which has now concluded) with a promise that the processing of their applications will be sped up.

The whole visit (along with protests by detainees at Curtin, Villawood and other centres) received a lot of establishment media attention. Solidarity actions in Sydney and Melbourne and other locations were in part prompted by the Convergence as well.

RRAN, already a dynamic group, has been energised by the experience. Participation in the convergence by refugee activists from Sydney and Melbourne also strengthened the national coordination of the movement.

RRAN will hold a reportback meeting at the Citiplace Community Centre in Perth on May 10. Plans for another national refugee convergence next Easter are already beginning to take shape. For more information visit www.rran.org .

Friends of Palestine boycott divestment and sanctions action

A dozen activists gathered at Carousel shopping centre on May 2 as part of a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) action against cosmetics company Seacret.

Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) called the action in support of the international BDS campaign called for by Palestinian civil society. The aim is to place pressure on Israel to adhere to international law and to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. This pressure can be created by such actions as boycotting Israeli products.

Seacret is an Israeli company that manufactures its products using resources from the Dead Sea – Palestinian land occupied by Israel. The Palestinians themselves are denied entry to the Dead Sea by Israeli military forces.

The activists converged on the stall and consecutively emerged from the crowd to theatrically announce to people passing by the source of Seacret’s products.

On the previous Seacret action organised by FOPWA, centre management had arranged for police to be present before activists arrived. On this occasion, security was caught off guard even though the action was publicly announced.

After the FOPWA activists had made their point at the Seacret stall, the action progressed into a march with the activists shouting chants such as “Free, free Palestine, occupation is a crime” through the centre. Food court patrons listened sympathetically to a speech by FOPWA activists about the BDS campaign and why the occupation needs to be ended.

[This article by Sarah Ross was written for Green Left Weekly and published also on the Friends of Palestine website.]

Vale Vic Williams: 1914 - 2011

Long-time Perth activist, Communist Party of Australia leader, World War II veteran and retired waterside worker Vic Williams died on April 19, aged 96.

Born on June 28, 1914, Vic joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1939 and was one of its leading members in Western Australia until it split over the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

With others, Vic formed the pro-Soviet Socialist Party of Australia which took up the Communist Party name after the original CPA dissolved in the early 1990s. He remained with it for the rest of his life, and was also a founding member of the WA Greens.

He worked on the Fremantle waterfront for many years and was involved in some of the big strikes by the wharfies in 1954 and 1956. At the time he was Secretary of the CPA's wharf branch and produced its regular waterfront bulletin Smoko.

In 1956, Vic became the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) publicity committee. Also in the 1950s, Vic and the WWF helped restart the annual Fremantle May Day parade. He marched in everyone since, except last year when ill health prevented him.

After retirement he was awarded life membership of the WWF, now part of the Maritime Union of Australia.

Joan Williams who died in June 2008, was Vic's wife for 63 years. They met in the 1940s while he was in the army and she a journalist for the West Australian newspaper.

An activist couple, Joan was as busy as Vic, among many other things becoming the only woman to sit on the Melville City Council in the 1970s.

Especially interested in poetry, creative writing and the arts; they were instrumental in the re-establishment of the WA branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia which had lapsed before World War II.

The WA branch is today one of the organisation's most active; fulfilling Vic and Joan's vision.

They were also regular faces at Green Left Weekly's fundraising events and those of other organisations, never limiting their circle of friendship and activism to those from the same tradition in the socialist movement.

Many Perth activists have remarked how right into his late 80s, Vic would not just attend the big protests of the day; but all the smaller pickets, vigils and meetings that take place in between.

His long stints at the Workers Embassy in front of the WA Parliament in the 1990s, support for the struggle over the Swan Brewery site and locking arms with young comrades during the 2001 M1 blockade of the stock exchange were some of the highlights of his activism in these later years.

On behalf of the Socialist Alliance in Western Australia, condolences to all of Vic's family, friends and comrades. Let's honour Vic's contribution to our movement by continuing the struggle for a world based on social justice and human dignity.

[This article by Sam Wainwright first appeared in Green Left Weekly #878.]