Attack on free speech resisted

Issue 

Emma Clancy, Perth

Anti-war activists won a victory for free speech in Perth by turning out once more on February 18 to protest ANZ's profiteering from the war on Iraq. The Murray Street Mall protest, attended by around 40 people, was called by Resistance in response to the violent, unprovoked police attack on a similar protest a week earlier.

On February 11, after ANZ had complained about the peaceful anti-war protest, police violently attacked protesters, shut the action down and made two arrests.

Throughout the WA state election campaign, Labor Premier Geoff Gallop and Liberal leader Colin Barnett have attempted to out-do each other in promises to "get tough" on law and order. The Liberal Party pledged to introduce water cannons and the Gallop government promised 50,000-volt Tasers to better police WA.

Anti-war activist and Socialist Alliance North Metropolitan candidate Nikki Ulasowski, present at both ANZ anti-war protests, told Green Left Weekly, "We are outraged at these threats to introduce such dangerous, potentially deadly weapons for use against the WA population".

"We have just witnessed, at the anti-war rally the police attacked last week, the close collaboration between the police and big business. We know such weapons would be used to silence, intimidate and physically injure progressive activists who are fighting for social justice."

Protesters chanted "100,000 Iraqis dead — who's making profits? ANZ!" and speakers discussed the impact of the occupation on the Iraqi people and their economy, as well as the importance of fighting for the democratic right to free speech in Australia.

Resistance activist Mark Kojan told GLW that he considered the rally to be a victory for the anti-war movement in Perth. "We successfully stepped up the campaign against the war profiteers, as well as sending a clear message to Gallop's police force that the anti-war movement will not be silenced."

From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.
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