Grand Prix protesters inspect 'dust bowl'

Issue 

Grand Prix protesters inspect 'dust bowl'

By Sean Lennon

MELBOURNE — A thousand people gathered at Albert park on February 18 to inspect the damage caused to the park by construction for the Grand Prix. The protest, organised by the Save Albert Park Group, was held in silence.

As people walked around the park, organisers pointed out the damage. The first place inspected had been a children's playground. It is now a treeless dust bowl. While the crowd was there, photos of the playground as it was were passed around. Very few of the trees in the photos survive. The Save Albert Park Group had done an exact count of the number of trees before work started. There are now 1024 fewer.

After leaving the children's playground, the protest moved across Aughtie Drive to the site of the Grand Prix itself. This has been totally fenced off, and unauthorised entry carries a fine of $2000.

The fence was breached, and the majority of the crowd entered the site. However, no-one was arrested. Work had been going on all morning but by the time the demonstrators arrived the machines were idle.

The crowd stopped near a children's playground which, while not under threat, is only 10 metres from the track. The Grand Prix authorities have said that a high concrete wall will separate it from the track. But the organisers pointed out that such a wall may be seen by children as something to play on.

The group moved further into the " declared area"; it is here that the devastation is really apparent. While the rest of the area is a dust bowl, this spot is in the process of being compacted. What was once a series of ovals and cricket grounds now resembles a lunar landscape, craters and all. Next to the track a building will go up which will be 240 metres long, the size of a city block.

During an open mike, it was suggested that those who could do so, attend a rally outside Bernie Ecclestone's London office. Ecclestone is the head of Formula One racing. It is planned that the rally will be held in late March. Some groups here have already undertaken to contact their British counterparts.

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