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.
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: