Carnival style protest held in Sydney

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Protestors gathered in Customs Square to listen to speakers

The 30A protest in Sydney, Australia, occurred on Tuesday night in carnival style. The protest began around 5 p.m. at Customs Square, Circular Quay, with 1,000 to 2,000 people assembling to listen to speeches and music. After about an hour, the protestors marched along the Quay to the concrete and steel barricades preventing public access to the Opera House forecourt; where the carnival continued with music, drums, and dancing.

There were a wide variety of people present at the protest, including trade unionists, Christian groups, social justice groups, fair trade activists, and peace groups. Many people wore elaborate costumes, beat drums, played music, and sang.

All speakers emphasised the importance of protesting peacefully, encouraging protestors to avoid violence or confrontation at all costs. A number of speakers thanked the police for their efforts.

At 6 p.m. the protestors marched towards the opera house, where there was a violent confrontation between police and protestors who broke down a temporary wire fence. Music and dancing continued for a few hours after as people drifted away. The area was deserted by 9:30 p.m..

It was revealed during the evening that Tuesday evenings conference event was moved to a nearby ferry terminal because of security concerns and as such the targets of the protest were not in the area at the time.

Speeches

Christians Against Greed gathered near Opera house

The main theme of the speeches was opposition to so-called neo-liberalism. The conference attendees were described as neo-liberals, or "free market freaks", who support reduction of the minimum wage, reduction of welfare benefits, undermining of unions, and privatisation of essential services such as water.

Greens Senator Kerrie Nettle gave a rousing speech, accusing the conference delegates of failing to protect the environment and planning to privatise government services.

"The people inside that conference want to sell our public schools and hospitals," she said.

Some speakers also acknowledged that the protest was taking place on Aboriginal land, and there was a moments silence to reflect on past and present crimes against Australian Aborigines. The protestors chanted "Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land."

Confrontation at barricades

Police line in front of breached section of barricade

At about 6 p.m., as the speeches ended, the protestors left Customs Square and marched along Circular Quay to the barrricades that had been erected at Macquarie St, to prevent the public from accessing the Opera House forecourt. A number of protestors began rocking the barricades and attempting to climb over. A flare was also thrown from the crowd over the barricades. After two or three minutes, the protestors were successful in causing one to lean over onto the ground. Police responded by using horses and batons to force the protestors back, and then forming a line of officers along the breached section to prevent anyone entering the exclusion zone. Police proceeded to make a small number of arrests.

The protestors continued their action in a peaceful manner from that point forward. The entire incident was over in less than five minutes.

Some protestors accused the police of using excessive force while making arrests. "As soon as we reached the fence, a mass of people jumped on the fence and began shaking it. Some smoke bombs flew, police dogs were going crazy and shaking of the fence became more and more intense. The fence was pretty loose at this point. Suddenly the fence went DOWN!!! And the police began grabbing people who went over with it," said an eyewitness report on Sydney Indymedia. One protestor was transported to hospital by ambulance after breaking his collarbone during the incident.

However, others thought the police handled the situation well.

"I think the police were pretty impressive. They calmed the crowd very quickly and didn't react to the taunts of the protesters. They didn't do anything that I could see to inflame the situation. I think they were cool," said a blog article written by an eyewitness.

Sources

Wikinews
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