BY MELANIE SJOBERG
SYDNEY — The M1 collective is organising a peaceful blockade of Australasian Correctional Management, which runs Australia's refugee detention centres, at 8am on May 1, kicking off a day of action for global justice and peace under the theme "A different world is possible".
After converging on the World Bank offices in Martin Place at lunchtime, protesters will participate in a "unity rally" and march, stopping at corporation and government offices to raise M1's vision for an alternative world in which:
- detention centres are closed and refugees are welcome here;
- the only war that governments wage is on poverty and Third World debt;
- workers can control their own wages and conditions;
- the environment comes before corporate profit;
- indigenous people have their land back; and
- sexism, racism and homophobia have been eliminated.
These plans come out of extensive consultations with progressive activists, as well as debates over how to most effectively build activity on the day. The group aims to build mass protest action which links the struggle for refugees' rights in Australia with the campaign against the US-led "war on terrorism", and the struggle for workers' rights.
The main debate, resolved at a March 7 meeting, was whether the M1 collective should organise an action in the morning or whether it should encourage other campaigning groups supportive of the points listed above to plan "autonomous" protests.
The majority supported an M1-organised action. This would be easier, many argued, for people not already involved in activist groups to find out about and attend than dispersed actions organised separately.
The collective agreed to support other activities held on the morning of May 1 that raise the M1 vision.
The Wilderness Society plans to highlight the loss of old growth forests; Papua New Guinea Solidarity is considering an action at the World Bank offices; and Stand Up and the Unemployed Action Group plan to leaflet outside a Centrelink office. All these groups intend to join the unity rally.
Many other groups, including refugees' rights groups and unions, have signalled they are interested in supporting M1 activities, but were waiting for the collective to decide the format for the day before working out their plans.
A minority within the M1 collective opposed a blockade on the grounds that police action would inevitably cause violence. The majority, however, agreed that the prospect of police violence should not deter activists from organising peaceful blockades.
The M1 collective is planning to publicise the rally with a contingent to the March 24 Palm Sunday rally and the Sydney Activist Fair on March 23. A working bee and meeting is planned at the UTS student union office at 7pm on March 14.
From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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