BY OWEN RICHARDS & ANDREA MYLES
SYDNEY — In a protest unlike any before in this western Sydney suburb, 300 people marched defiantly through the streets of Auburn on October 20 under the banners "Stop the war!" and "Refugees are welcome!". The protest was part of a series of community marches called by the Socialist Alliance in the lead-up to the November 10 federal election.
"More innocent deaths will not solve the problem [of terrorism]",Lisa Macdonald, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Reid, told the assembled crowd at Auburn Railway Park. Macdonald began the rally by condemning Bush's war on Afghanistan.
This condemnation was echoed by Saya Deysabzi from Mission Afghanistan who spoke passionately of the sufferings of the Afghan people. "I have a very simple proposal", he told the protesters: "Peace."
"I wish the innocent Afghan people could enjoy today as we do", Palestinian activist and Greens' member Jamal Daoud said, contrasting the beautiful weather and community spirit in the park with the conditions in Afghanistan. He called for "a humane government, a government that helps people in crisis".
Protesters observed a minute's silence after Australian Manufacturing Workers Union activist Gazi Noshie pledged the union's support. The AMWU, he said, is totally opposed to the war on Afghanistan and stands for a "just solution" to terrorism.
"If this is a war on terrorism, why haven't they got the big terrorists in their sights: Blair, Clinton, Bush, Howard?", Resistance member Luke Formiatti asked. This war, he argued, "is a war on the Third World, it's a war against ordinary people, it's a war against us".
On those words, banners were raised and chants began as the protesters wound through the main street of Auburn. The march was greeted with surprise and enthusiasm from onlookers, and grew in size as it reached the main shopping centre.
At the shops, Paul Benedek from the Free the Refugees campaign addressed the rally and onlookers: "They talk about chemical warfare, about anthrax, but what about the 18 million people worldwide who die because of limited access to desperately needed medicines — isn't this chemical warfare?" Arsalan Nazarian from the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees then presented a long list of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the US.
The suffering of women under the raids was addressed by International Women's Day Collective member Kim Bullimore, who described how thousands of women have been left in Afghanistan to care for those unable to flee the bombing raids. In Australia, she added, Muslim women have been under attack from racists, some resorting to masking their religion to feel safe.
The community march continued on to Civic Park, where Network Opposing War and Racism activist Michelle Brear enjoined everyone present to attend NOWAR's next meeting, emphasising that "we want to draw the broadest coalition possible because we can and have to stop the war". Turkish activist Engen Dincer also condemned the hypocrisy of the US.
The march concluded with an open microphone speak-out, after which many stayed for a post-march celebratory barbecue.