Council threatens peace vigil


NEWCASTLE — Labor Party Councillors have attempted to close down the permanent peace vigil in Newcastle's Civic Park. Peace activists have maintained the vigil since the war in the Middle East began.

At a council meeting on February 19 at which the peace protesters put their case, Labor alderman Frank Rigby described the vigil as a shantytown and demanded that the town clerk withdraw its permit.

Gwynne Learney, one of the initiators, told Green Left the vigil started "to provide an avenue for people to discuss the war, because most of the mainstream coverage seemed to be propaganda, as well as to give out peace information".

Mavis Tersteeg, who addressed council on behalf of the protesters, said that some of the councillors took the view that you should "fight for peace. I believe we should work for peace, not fight. The vigil has provided the opportunity for people to discuss and consider their views."

Tersteeg commented that Rigby had actually done them a favour, as "all aspects of media have been focussed on us". The local television station, as a result of the attempted ban, interviewed Mavis four times in 24 hours. This publicity may have been a factor in the town clerk's decision to uphold the right to public protest and do nothing about Rigby's outburst.

Tersteeg added that the vigil will continue until the end of the war. Volunteers are needed because work and uni have recommenced for a number of participants.