Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rally against racism: Protest far right bigotry - Sat 4 April

On Saturday April 4, a far right mob calling themselves "Reclaim Australia" are hosting a series of rallies around Australia in order to promote anti-Muslim bigotry.

They want: to "ban the burqa"; to enforce "pride in the Australian flag"; and to make "Halal certification ... illegal".

They pretend that they are not racist but their real views about Aboriginal rights can be found in this video where one of the key spokespeople for Reclaim Australia says that "nice Aboriginal people are few and far between - most of them are dickheads"!

One of their supporters went on John Laws program proudly proclaiming to be a bigot! When even John Laws seems reasonable by comparison, you know you are dealing with some pretty extreme characters!

It is important that as many people as possible stand up and join the public stand against racism and bigotry. In Perth:

Rally Against Racism
Saturday 4 April 2015
11am Solidarity Park (Harvest Terrrace, West Perth - opposite Parliament House)

NB: Unions WA has issued a public statement rejecting the use of Solidarity Park by Reclaim Australia.

Some of the other counter rallies on Saturday

Reclaim Adelaide from the Racists
Saturday April 4 10am
Facebook event: Reclaim Adelaide from the Racists

Rally Against Racism & Bigotry
Saturday April 4 10:30am @ King George Square
Facebook event: Rally Against Racism & Bigotry

Gold Coast
Reclaim Australia Counter Rally
Saturday April 4 10am @ Evandale Park
Facebook event: Reclaim Australia Counter Rally

Rally Against Racism
Saturday April 4 midday @ Federation Square
Facebook event: Rally Against Racism

Rally Against Racism
Saturday April 4 11am @ Solidarity Park
Facebook event: Rally Against Racism

Harmony Day
Saturday March 21 10am @ Newcastle Civic Park
Facebook event: Harmony Day

Anti-Racist Counter-Rally – Stop Islamophobia
Saturday April 4 10:30 am @ Martin Place
Facebook event: Anti-Racist Counter-Rally

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Palm Sunday: Walk for justice for refugees - Sun 29 March

As part of a national day of action across Australia the group is inviting people from all walks of life to express their dissatisfaction with the current asylum seeker policy in a peaceful walk through the streets of Perth:

1pm Sunday 29 March

St George's Cathedral, Perth

We are calling for

Compassion not punishment.
An end to offshore processing.
An end to mandatory detention.

Details of vigils and protests around Australia and the world
The details of vigils and protests around the world can be found on a map available here. All times below are local times.

International (19):
Quito, Ecuador, 28 March   
Free the refugees photo shoot, Mt Pichincha, Quito Ecuador email redbird5608 [at]  yahoo [dot] com [dot] au
Geneva, Switzerland 29 March at 20:00
Vigil and photo message, United Nations Office Geneva, 1202 Place des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland https://www.facebook.com/events/1418237635144913/
Paris, France, 29 March, 6:30pm- 7pm
Vigil in front of the Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro - Parvis des Droits de l'Homme, Paris, France https://www.facebook.com/events/808836289171768/
Hong Kong, 31 March, 18:00-19:30
Photo shoot and vigil, Central Ferry Pier No 4, 852 Central District, Hong Kong
Nanyuki, Kenya, 29 March
Mt Kenya, Nanyuki. Please contact Phillip for more details: peripateticphil (at) gmail (dot) com
Berlin, Germany, 13 April, 19:00
Film Screening European Premier of ‘Mary meets Mohammad’. Agora, Mittelweg 50, 12053 Neuk√∂lln, Berlin, Germany
The Hague, The Netherlands,
TBC original event has had to be rescheduled but will happen within two weeks
Contact Srividya: srividya [dot] ganapathy [ at ] gmail [dot] com
Utrecht, The Netherlands, 29 March, 13:00-14:00
Vigil, Domplein, 3512 JD Utrecht
Los Angeles, USA, 29 March, 6am
Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1778 Vine St
Vitoria- Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain, 29 March
Contact Trevor Parish through the group for more details: https://www.facebook.com/groups/overseas4refugees/
Boston, USA,  27 March
Vigil outside the Belfer Centre- Kennedy School of Government, Cambridge
Koh Jum, Thailand, 29 March
Contact paulaeglington (at) icloud (dot) com to get involved
Bere Island, Ireland, 29 March
Holy Week Retreat with prayers for Australian Asylum Seekers. Streamed online: http://www.wccm.org/content/know-ways-you-can-can-take-part-holy-week-retreat
New York City, USA, 29 March, 7pm - 8pm
Vigil against deportation to danger, Qantas Airways Ltd 150 East 42nd Street #400 New York, NY 10017 https://www.facebook.com/events/1541822756079885/1544575419137952/
Barlad, Romania, 29 March  
Contact Jane Dough to find out morejanelousiethewriter [at] gmail [dot] com
Berkeley, California, USA, 29 March  
Film screening (private home), Contact Russell Ward to find out more. ausrussell [at] gmail [dot] com
Dublin, Ireland, March 29, 2pm
Vigil at the Australian Embassy https://www.facebook.com/events/671020009692118/
Guernsey, Channel Islands, 29 March, 1:50pm
Palm Sunday Vigil, St Saviour, Guernsey, Channel Islands https://www.facebook.com/events/634113323400071
London, United Kingdom, March 30, 4:30-6:30pm
Vigil outside Australia House, The Strand, WC2B 4LA London, UK https://www.facebook.com/events/1547986572130589/
Australia (12):
Sydney 19 April 1pm
March for refugees starting at Belmore Park, Sydney, Australia, 2000 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palm-Sunday-Sydney-2014-march-for-refugees-peace-equality-no-racism/1380118495588511
Canberra 29 March, 1pm
Palm Sunday Rally for Refugees, Garema Place, Canberra. https://www.facebook.com/events/410918062400966/
Melbourne 29 March, 2pm
Walk for Justice for Refugees starting at the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3000. https://www.facebook.com/events/326736020868946
Armidale 29 March, 11am.
Walk for Justice for Refugees starting at the Armidale Post Office, NSW, Australia https://www.facebook.com/events/396600640511450/
Adelaide 29 March,1:30 pm
Walk for Justice for Refugees, starting on the steps of Parliament House, North Terrace, Adelaide. https://www.facebook.com/events/1555932724689237/
Darwin, 29 March, 17:30
Justice for Refugees, Day of Action Palm Sunday photo shoot on the Jetty, Nightcliff Jetty, Darwin. https://www.facebook.com/events/1603155653255215/
Sandgate, Queensland, 28 March, 18:30- 22:00
Feast of the Senses, Artshow, Iranian Dinner and Band, 153 Rainbow St, Sandgate
Perth, 29 March, 1pm  
Walk for Justice for Refugees, 38 St Georges Terrace, Perth, Australia https://www.facebook.com/Justice4RefugeesWA
Katherine, Northern Territory 28 March, 7-8:30pm
Candle light vigil, St Joseph's Perish, Katherine, NT, Australia https://www.facebook.com/events/1404002113247998/
Hobart, Tasmania, 29 March, 10:30am-11am
Mountain top Vigil and photo shoot, Mt Wellington Summit, Tasmania https://www.facebook.com/events/784656291618668/
Brisbane, 29 March, 1pm
Rally to Declare Peace on Refugees, King George Square https://www.facebook.com/events/956225261064133/

Online Initiatives for March 29 (2):

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hundreds march in March in Perth

500 people marched through the streets of Perth for the second March in March rally on March 22. Speakers included a representative of Rockingham homeless, Gavin Scolaro from the National Union of Students and Janet Parker from the Civil Service Association.

[Photos and video by Zeb Parkes.]

Barnett aims to bring in anti-protest law

The Western Australian government has introduced new legislation aimed at criminalising protesters.

Police minister Lisa Harvey said the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code are specifically aimed at protesters who use devices like thumb locks. However, the bill criminalises “presumed” intent to commit a crime and “possessing a thing for the purpose of preventing lawful activity” during peaceful protests.

Kate Davis, from the Community Legal Centres Association of WA, told Green Left Weekly that the law does not define what a “thing” actually is. She is concerned that the bill would “have a chilling effect on West Australian activism”.

If a protester is suspected of intending to commit a crime, they can be arrested and fined up to $24,000 or imprisoned for up to two years.

Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director Hugh de Krester has urged parliament not to pass the law. “This new legislation goes too far,” he said. “The offences are vague and will be prone to misuse. There are real risks they could criminalise peaceful protest in breach of our international human rights obligations.”

Davis, who is also a member of the Greens, agreed that the bill would hinder people’s human rights of free speech and participation in the democratic process.

She said: “The proposed bill ignores that direct action has played an important role in establishing and protecting human rights that we take for granted in Australia and around the globe. We need to recognise the importance of protesters putting their bodies on the line as a matter of principle, which is vital to the democratic process.”

The vague restrictions and harsh new penalties will reverse the onus of proof, meaning protesters would have to prove they were not intending to commit a crime.

The presumption of innocence, rather than guilt, is a fundamental part of Australian law that must remain to allow people to protest safely and peacefully.

Socialist Alliance co-convener Alex Bainbridge told Green Left Weekly: “This year is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta from which the fundamental legal principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' is derived. Yet the proposed law reverses the onus of proof and forces an accused person to prove their innocence. How disgraceful that Barnett wants to take our democratic rights back literally to the middle ages.

“The police minister is making a big fuss about protecting 'lawful activity'. However, these laws would also target protesters 'locking on' to prevent unlawful activity as well. How many times have developers moved in the middle of the night to demolish heritage buildings for instance? Only the naive assume that all corporate activity is 'lawful'.”

Police already hold considerable powers to move people on and charge people with “conspiracy” to commit a crime.

Police also have the power to break up protests and charge people with trespass. Not only are these new laws unnecessary, they are also an incredibly dangerous assault on the democratic freedoms all Australians deserve.

Almost 10,000 people have signed an online petition and more than 50 organisations have signed a joint statement against the laws.

“In the end,” said Bainbridge, “it comes down to a decision about what kind of society we want.

“Barnett is on the side of the corporations who are destroying the planet. We are on the side of honest and committed activists who want nothing more than to save the world."

[This article by Kaila de Cinque was written for Green Left Weekly #1046.]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Perth rally to defend Aboriginal communities: 'there is no price on culture'

In one of the largest Aboriginal rights protests in Perth for years, a diverse crowd of over 2000 people came out and took a stand against against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities in across WA, particularly in the Kimberley.

The government's policy of defunding communities means it will stop giving access to services like health and education while also cutting power and water.

The rally started off by filling out Forrest Place where Uncle Ben Taylor gave a passionate welcome to country.

Tammy Solonec - an Aboriginal woman and human rights lawyer from Amnesty International - spoke out strongly against the closures. Arguing that it will only make the situation for many Aboriginal people worse, not better.

“Moving Aboriginal people from their homelands will be harder than making these communities sustainable and viable. It will cause inter-generational trauma. It will break connections to land and culture. It will force people to move to larger towns and cities, that are already experiencing over crowding – where they will have greater exposure to drugs, alcohol, violence, crime and ultimately incarceration”

The march started behind a banner painted “Close the Gap, Not the Communities” which was also one of the most popular chants. Over the recent years the gap has actually being widening on most measures it is based on. Closing communities along with cuts to Aboriginal services in the federal budget will only exacerbate this problem.

A wide range of groups took part in the march including Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Amnesty International, Nynoongar Tent Embassy, Socialist Alliance and the Greens, among others.

Popular slogans drawn onto placards include:

  • “Racism is a lifestyle choice”
  • “Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities”
  • “Always Was, Always will be Aboriginal Land”
  • “We are still here” (painted onto an Aboriginal flag)

And the one that really summed up the day: “There is no price on culture”

The rally wound it’s way out of the Perth CBD and up to the steps of Parliament House. Premier Colin Barnett came out and addressed the crowd but most people turned their backs calling out his policy as racist. One person even raised an Aboriginal flag onto one of the flagpoles that had only being showing the Australian flag.

Robin Chapel from the Greens and Alannah MacTiernan from the ALP were among the politicians who spoke out against the closure of communities.

Dennis Eggington, of the WA Aboriginal Legal Service spoke about the important cultural connection Aboriginal people have to the land and how disastrous breaking that connection would be. He said closure of the communities amounts to "genocide".

Actions have being held across Australia today with a 1000 people gathering in Melbourne and 500 people in Adelaide marching stopping traffic as they marched on parliament house. Protests continued in regional Western Australia, where many of the communities slated to be closed are located. Hundreds turned out in Broome, Port Headland, Halls Creek, Roebourne, Beagle Bay and Geraldton.

It even had international support with a mass online protest happening. People from around the world sent in photos of themselves with placards in support of the campaign to keep remote Aboriginal communities open.

With numerous people coming out to protest for the first time in their lives and only a few days of Facebook promotion in the wake of the Perth City Council sending in dozens of police officers to attack the Aboriginal camp at Matagarup Island, this is potentially the start of a mass campaign for Aboriginal Land Rights.

[Article by Zeb Parkes for Green Left Weekly. Photos by Alex Bainbridge and Zeb Parkes. Video by Zeb Parkes.]

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March in March Perth: Sunday 22 March

The second March in March will be held in Perth on Sunday 22 March. It is an important community protest against the policies of the Abbott government.

Sunday 22 March

12noon, Stirling Gardens
cnr Barrack St & St Georges Terrace, Perth City.

Attend on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/788089714593655

Monday, March 16, 2015

Call to action: Stop Barnett's closure of Aboriginal communities

Stand together in solidarity around Australia to stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities.

Let us march through the city to show Australia and the world we care about our mob. Wear your colours, make banners, get out of work, take your kids out of school - this is the time everyone to stand up and be counted.

Strength in numbers to give a message to the government that are going back hundreds of years to when our grandparents were forced into reserves like cattle from their own land. This is 2015 we need to show the world what is happening in Australia to our people who have suffered enough. Meet at Forrest Place then we will walk to William street down to St Georges Terrace and onto Parliament House.

10am Thurs 19 March

Forrest Place, Perth city

Attend on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/662627520510662

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Police move in but fail to snuff out sacred fire at Matagarup

An Aboriginal encampment returned to Matagarup (also known as Heirisson Island) on March 1. Police moved in on March 13 to close it down but were unsuccessful.

Matagarup was the site of the 2012 Nyoongar Tent Embassy, which was inspired by the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and the revitalisation of a national movement for Aboriginal sovereignty. It was also a protest against a proposed deal between the Barnett government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council to extinguish Nyoongar native title in return for a cash and land package.

This time, the encampment has described itself as a “refugee camp”. Participants believe that this makes it possible to get extra protection and support from the United Nations.

It is also a reaction to the current moves by the state government to close 150 remote Aboriginal communities. The argument has been made that closure of communities will result in an influx of people with nowhere to go.

A sign at the camp said it was for all “homeless and displaced persons”. Participants told Green Left Weekly that it is sad that Aboriginal people are “refugees in their own country”'.

A ceremony was held on March 8 to mark a full seven days since the “refugee camp” was established – a time when participants believed that United Nations protections kicked in.

However, Perth City Council issued an ultimatum that any permanent structures at the camp must be dismantled by March 12. After a meeting on March 11, the council offered a 24-hour extension.

One hundred people gathered for a ceremony at noon on March 13. People spoke about the need to resist the state government's attempts to close remote communities. Maureen Culbong spoke about the importance of the camp and the meeting with the council two days before.

Bella Bropho recounted the story of the closure of the Swan Valley Nyungar Community in 2003 and said it was the first community closure.

Marianne Mackay emphasised the importance of the sovereignty movement. She said there is nothing anyone could do to end Nyoongar sovereignty over their land.

At about 2pm it became clear that police were going to move in. Police scouts passed through and then an “incident response van” pulled up in the car park.

When police arrived at 3pm, together with horses, dogs and two big trucks. They targeted “structures” – that is the few tents that had been left standing. They seized picnic tables, mattresses and a pram and put them in the trucks, presumably for disposal.

While this was happening, a number of the Aboriginal flags were turned upside down as a sign of distress.

People gathered around the sacred fire but did not in any way disrupt the police operation. The fire was built up and it was considered that protecting the fire was the most important goal.

The fire brigade was called and made a big show of spraying water on some unused campfires, but the police made no attempt to move people or put out the sacred fire at the centre of the camp.

This was considered a significant victory by camp participants, and a marked difference from previous police operations.

While some tents were seized, there is a clear intention to stay on the island.

A meeting has been called for 9am on March16 on the island. In addition, a protest against forced community closures has been called for March 19 in Perth city.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was written for Green Left Weekly #1045.]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

RE-fugue: pro-refugee art installation, happening now

This week RE-fugue is happening. An artistic residency by Marziya Mohammedali about the intersection between art and activism. It's aimed at amplifying the voices of refugees, including those currently in detention and inspiring people to get active.

As you enter the space you're confronted with an installation that's being created to resemble a tent from Manus detention centre. Depending on when you attend the residency, you might get to help out creating the installation (though you've missed the really fun part of getting the tarpaulins up). Interacting with the space during the week is all part of the experience, another activity is crossing out a word of the maritime act whenever you enter as part of the change the narrative thread running throughout it. Currently the tent is being outfitted with video projections of the conditions on Manus combined with audio recordings from asylum seekers suffering in there, it's shaping up to give people an evocative impression of how terrible life in a detention centre is.

Continuing through the space you'll come across letters from refugees in detention. Giving moving descriptions of their experiences in detention and why they are forced to seek asylum. However they also contain an element of hope, as they express their gratitude for the actions being taken by refugee activists and the positive difference they are making.

From here the residency channels your sorrow and anger into activism. From photos covering years of protests by refugee activists outside remote detention centres to objects from these protests like a soccer ball with "Azadi" ("freedom" in Farzi) written on it. The ball was thrown over a detention centre fence in a symbolic act of breaking down the barriers.

Sculptures of the word freedom written in the different languages of asylum seekers in detention adorn the room and a banner made from designs drawn in Yongah hill detention centre hangs on the wall.

Finishing off the residency is a collection of inspiring films shot at refugee actions. Including a few documentaries from refugee convergences made for Green Left TV and others by this author.

It's open till the 14th of March and includes a Symposium on Thursday night and a creative workshop on Saturday morning. Come along to it and let me know how awesome you think the films are ;)

You can find more information here.

Here's an interview I did with the artist in residence Marziya Mohammedali on it's first day.

[Article, photos and video by Zeb Parkes for Green Left Weekly.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Socialist Alliance endorses joint statement against anti-protester law

The Socialist Alliance state committee has endorsed this Joint Statement by a number of organisations raising concerns about the anti-democratic character of the Barnett government's proposed new anti-protest laws:
On behalf of our staff, members and communities we represent, we the undersigned organisations are gravely concerned by the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015 and the implications it has for advocates, activists and concerned citizens.

Our first concern is the criminalisation of protest. Australians have a long, proud history of peaceful demonstration, which has been instrumental in securing the rights that many of us now take for granted; the right to vote, to a fair wage for a fair day’s work, to a fair price for produce for farmers, and those longstanding campaigns to protect the beautiful places we love, from the Franklin River to the Ningaloo Reef.

We are concerned that the punishments defined in the bill, up to $24000 or 24 months’ imprisonment, will act as a deterrent to lawful and peaceful protests; inhibiting our ability and the ability of all Western Australians to stand up for the people, places and activities they love and to have their voices heard.

Secondly, reversing the onus of proof undermines the fundamental presumption of innocence. Concerned citizens taking political action should not be presumed to have criminal intent. We are concerned that the law is so broadly drafted as to be open to misuse. In criminalizing the possession of a "thing", this law creates a very wide crime and is a threat to civil liberties.

Peaceful demonstration has played an important role in shaping our modern society and we foresee dire consequences of stifling the right to engage in such activity. We are calling on all our parliamentarians to oppose this bill in order to protect our fundamental rights and values.
Some of the reasons for concern that have been identified are listed below.

Many people and community groups oppose the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015. Here is a summary of the reasons why:

1. This bill criminalises peaceful protest.  People all over the world and throughout history have engaged in non-violent direct action to establish rights and protect beautiful places. 

2. This bill applies on private land and on public land. This means that a farmer ‘locking the gate’ to fracking could be convicted of the offence of physically preventing lawful activity, for protecting their own farm.

3. This bill creates an offence of possessing “a thing” to be used for preventing lawful activity or trespass.  This can apply to literally any thing. This criminalises the possession of ordinary everyday items, and is so broad it could apply to the possession of a pair of shoes.

4. This bill reverses the onus of proof. In ‘circumstances giving rise to a reasonable suspicion’, anyone charged would have to prove that they did not intend to prevent lawful activity.  The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of our law, and should not be removed for peaceful protesters.  If you were charged would have to prove a negative, about your own thoughts.

5. This legislation uses very broad terms to create new criminal offences. The offence relates to preventing any “lawful activity”, and to any “thing”. Criminal offences should be drafted specifically to target a crime, not as broadly as possible.

6. Current laws already give police power to charge people for trespass, to issue a move on notice, and to charge people for failing to comply with a move on notice.  Move on notices can be issued pre-emptively if police are concerned an offence is going to be committed.  There are already a range of offences specific to protesting in forests and on mine sites. Police can already charge activists with ‘conspiracy’ to commit offences.

7. The bill proposes that a Court can order an individual to pay the cost of police or others removing a physical barrier to lawful activity.  Costs of policing are not passed on to people who commit serious crimes such as murder or rape, and peaceful activists should not face these costs.

8. This bill sets penalties at 2 years in prison and $24,000 fine. Many protesters have received spent convictions, after convincing the Court that they were motivated by the public interest, and were otherwise law abiding citizens.  Peaceful protestors do not deserve jail.  This penalty is disproportionate to the crime.

9. The bill is badly drafted. As well as very broad undefined terms, it includes circular sections imposing higher penalties, and includes a definition of “physically” prevent which seeks to include things well outside the normal definition of “physical”.  Poorly drafted legislation can easily be misused.

10. Creating an offence of ‘possession of a thing’ could lead to police routinely searching or strip searching peaceful protesters. This would be an oppressive response to peaceful protest.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bandyup Action Group speakout for International Women's Day

International Women's Day in Perth was marked by a speakout for justice for the women in Bandyup prison.

It was pointed out that one third of the prisoners are on remand (that is they have not even been sentenced), that only ten per cent of the prisoners are classified as maximum security but all are treated that way and that the prison is massively overcrowded.

Wesley Church corner, Sat 7 March 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Feminism and Socialism seminar: Sat 14 March

A seminar for new and prospective members of Socialist Alliance and Resistance

Farida Iqbal  
   (Origins of Women's Oppression)
Christie Woodleigh  
   (Sexism and Misogyny today)
Kamala Emanuel  
   (Pathways to liberation)

2-4pm Sat 14 March

Perth Activist Centre
15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth (next to McIver station)

Ph 9218 9608, 0417 319 662

Monday, March 2, 2015

Murdoch: How we can fight Pyne's education attacks - Wed 11 March

A Murdoch Resistance Club public forum

How we can fight Pyne's education attacks

In Australia, we are facing massive attacks on our right to an education from drastic fee hike's to university becoming more inaccessible to people around the country. Come along to this important forum to discuss how we can resist these attacks and fight for free education.

Wed 11 March

12:30pm, Walters Cafe (Library)
(find us at an outside table)