Occupy Hobart sets up outside parliament
Occupy Hobart? Where to begin? The possibilities are infinite. It is not an organisation with a set political agenda. It is a decentralised mass of people coming together with their own ideas in fusion as a collective.
A major trigger for me to help start Occupy Hobart, which began on October 29, was the hundreds of riot police that evicted peaceful occupiers in Melbourne on October 21.
To test whether our constitutional rights would be respected in Hobart, I organised a legal permit to occupy the state Parliament House lawns. The goal was to peacefully allow non-seditious political discussion based on the overarching Occupy philosophy — a critique of the 1% by the 99%.
In the lead up to Occupy Hobart, I contacted the police who said people could occupy until 9am on October 31, after which they would be removed on orders from Parliament House.
The police also told me a permit would give us more legal flexibility for the actual event.
Occupy Hobart contacted a community legal centre and were told so long as people stuck to Hobart City Council bylaws, there was no reason why anyone should be removed from Parliament House lawns.
The advice I finally received from Parliament House, after it had approved a permit, was that the lawns could be occupied for a general assembly between the times of 4pm and 7pm on Saturday nights, without a tent.
Given no tents were allowed and given we had received conflicting legal advice, the General Assembly — and any long term presence — was rife with legal ambiguities.
Occupy Hobart anticipated that the first meeting would consist of about 80 to 100 people.
On the day, some facilitators counted up to 80 people, while several media articles quoted 50-55.
However, given it poured with rain, there was consensus to stick with the permit time made by Parliament House and exit the lawns at 7pm. Long term occupations in other cities were planned based on the local context.
Occupy Hobart currently consists of between five and 15 regular participants on Wednesdays and Saturdays on the lawns.
Discussions there have focussed on issues such as a bill of rights, the division between the rich and poor, the printing of money out of thin air and Invasion Day.
In the future, Occupy Hobart plans to focus on forming working groups to increase the number of participants. These include a facilitators working group, an education workers group, a public relations working group and a media group.
More clarity also needs to be developed around our legal rights to peacefully occupy Parliament House lawns, while adhering to Hobart City Council bylaws.
Although we received a permit between 4pm and 7pm on October 29, the most recent advice from the police via Parliament House was that we need a permit for every gathering, just for being on the lawns. They said this was because if any other group used lawns at the same time, Occupy would disrupt those events.