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The Battle of City Square: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

I got a call this morning around 7.30am informing me that the police were planning to evict people from City Square at 9am. So I jumped on my bike and did what my conscience demanded of me. What else is one to do?

It is 7.15pm as I write these words, and I now have a badly sprained neck, having been forcibly removed from our peaceful protest in City Square by the riot police some time after midday. I’ll try to fill in the gaps, but I’m sore so it’ll have to be brief.

Whatever you think of the Global Occupy Movement – whatever you think of Occupy Melbourne, in particular – what happened today in City Square was disgraceful and unforgivable. I’m frustrated that those words just don’t express what I wish they could express, but I have no other words.

As I have discussed in recent posts, Melbourne’s City Square has been occupied for the last six days in peaceful protest. We have taken meticulous care of this public space, and each other, and we have been engaging ourselves and the public about various issues, ranging from corporate influence in politics, economic inequality, and the degradation of the environment. Does that sound so terrible? Like so many others, we are worried about where the world is heading and what this means for ourselves and our children. So we decided to do something. We decided to ask questions and raise difficult issues, in the most peaceful and authentic way possible. We would hand out flyers during the day; talk amongst ourselves and with others about social and ecological problems and potential solutions; at 6pm we would hold a General Assembly; and in the evening we would make our own dinner, make our own music, and continue our critical discussions.

Apparently this is unacceptable behaviour. Apparently peaceful protest is intolerable. Apparently the Mayor of Melbourne didn’t want to see a few tents in the City Square when the Queen was driven down Swanston Street in few days. For God’s sake! So this morning, hundreds of aggressive police officers arrived, fully armed with pepper spray and mace, backed up by the cavalry and the riot police, and forcibly removed us from this public space. It is important that you understand what happened, so please watch this short video: http://goo.gl/gY2Wq

Is this an appropriate use of police force? Of all the problems in the world, was it necessary to violently evict several hundred engaged people who were simply trying to question the status quo? Is this what democracy looks like? We must not take that word “democracy” for granted, or it’s meaning will be debased further.

As I sat in the gutter after being evicted from the square, nursing my sore neck, I heard numerous people walk by sniggering at what was taking place, mocking us for what they simply could not understand or chose not to understand. At one stage, not being able to contain my rage, I stood up and quietly asked these people: “What have you ever stood for? What do you, in fact, stand for?”

They were silent and quietly moved on.

So it goes.

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For my 4,000 word statement on Occupy Melbourne, see: http://simplicitycollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/IgniteRevised1.pdf

For some thoughtful news coverage:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/inchoate-yes-but-thoughtful-20111023-1meek.html

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/why-do-the-occupiers-so-preoccupy-our-masters-20111023-1meem.html

 

 

 

 

 

9 Responses to “The Battle of City Square: This Is What Democracy Looks Like”

  1. Juliette says:

    Hi Sam
    I was there today, trying to drop off some mandarins! I was caught up in the forceful nature by the police which I found totally overwhelming. I’m sorry to hear that you have been hurt.
    I hope a good nights rest in bed will re-charge your hopes and repair your neck.
    Juliette

  2. Samuel Alexander says:

    Thanks Juliette. Today was messed up. I still can’t believe it happened. The challenges we face are worse than I had originally thought.

  3. LK says:

    Speedy recovery mate. The silver lining here is that some of the media perception has swung strongly in the direction of the protesters now. Hopefully the movement stays strong for a long time.

  4. JahFe says:

    Hi Samuel, I am also sorry to hear you were hurt. The video clip was shocking. Your response to the sniggering by-passers was perfect.

    I am with Occupy Cairns and I intend to read out your story.

    I hope the activists of Melbourne have the resources and fortitude to return to City Square. How about run away each time they come and return immediately they leave. And if they mount a fence, go somewhere else to assemble. They cannot possibly win…

    You all appeared to be responding in a non-violent civil disobedience fashion. Well done. The authorities are just waitng in anticipation for activists to respond violently so they can crush the movement.

    In peace and solidarity,
    JahFe and Occupy Cairns

  5. SJ says:

    Sam, I was appaulled when I saw it on the evening news. I was very proud of the protesters for remaining strong but peaceful in there resistance. I hope the following quote helps. Violence breeds violence…Pure goals can never justify impure or violent action…They say the means are after all just means. I would say means are after all everything. As the means, so the end….If we take care of the means we are bound to reach the end sooner or later.

    ~ Gandhi

  6. Gina Trasy says:

    It was an incredibly sad and unwarranted end to the week, a week which sparked such an electric atmosphere of enlitghtened debate and focus in the city centre that should have brought hope and awakening to everyone who walked past. And I just want you to know that is exactly the way it made me feel walking past..your time there was not wasted. The vulgar manner in which it came to an end, watched by the Mayor from his elevated position far from the violence served only to strengthen the points that have been raised. Well done and thanks for the blog.

  7. Matt says:

    I wrote this on the way home from City square, on the tram.

    Today in Melbourne I stood and I cried
    And watched as a little piece of democracy died
    Standing together with my sisters and brothers
    Peacefully demonstrating with millions of others
    In a thousand cities all over the world
    The people had gather to spread the word
    Of greed and corruption and insider dealing
    And to show to the world that world needs healing
    But the sickness ran deeper than ever we thought
    It seems that the council and police were all bought
    So with loud speaker and paper we were told to depart
    Police broke up the protest and broke up my heart
    So the square will stand empty and fenced off from us all
    The posters all gone, just a plain concrete wall
    But the spirit’s not dead yet despite all this pain
    We will reassemble – We will rise again!

    See ya Saturday Sam!

  8. Samuel Alexander says:

    Nice one Matt! A good read! It stirred my emotions.

    Thanks for posting.

  9. Ken Gregory says:

    Congratulations. It is so encouraging to see people of real conviction take a stand to confront the tyranny of an economic system that celebrates corporate greed with such gusto that the CEO’s of mighty companies appear out of reach. They may as well be knocking on doors and demanding cash out of our wallets, The results are the same. These greedy, self serving, ego driven modern equivalents of feudal land barons, cling to their positions of power and influence while rubbing shit in the face of every Australian who slaves away to eek out a living. Rise up one and all I say. Support this fledling movement and protest the way you do aroun a bbq with friends and family. This is an opportunity to be heard. Refuse to be pawns in the game of greed any longer and demand justice.

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