Between 65,000 and 100,000 people rallied over March 15 to 17 in 31 events across Australia.
It was the biggest nationwide protest in years and has been a big boost in confidence to everyone who has been outraged and angered by the many attacks being implemented or threatened by the Tony Abbott government.
The protests were diverse, grassroots and vibrant.
Significantly, events were held in many regional towns, including Toowoomba, Caboolture, Lismore, Gosford, Armidale, Coffs Harbour and Alice Springs.
Jonathan Strauss was part of the Cairns March in March organising group. He summed up what many people experienced: “There was a huge variety of people: younger, older, unionists, environmentalists, first time marchers and so on. A big contribution in attendance and organising beforehand came from the towns around Cairns, such as Innisfail, Kuranda, Mareeba, Port Douglas and Tully.
“Credit is due to the national initiators of March in March for resolving just a couple of months ago to seek to express what is an emerging desire for action. And to local organisers everywhere for taking up the challenge, whatever experience they had had in organising demonstrations before.
“In Cairns, we are crystal clear that this is just the start. Planning the future begins this coming week. And I know across the country others are also asking the question: how do we create and sustain a movement that will succeed?
“We will need to try different things, and I guess some will not work while others do. What we need to do is have the resolve — not just the will, but ideas and perspective — to keep going until politics in this country serves the people, the 99%, not corporations and the rich.”
Two of the big issues at most marches were refugee rights and the environment. Protesters were opposed to gas fracking and demanded action on climate change. Speakers from refugee rights groups were invited to address rallies in many cities.
Unions also joined in the marches with contingents from several different unions. In Newcastle, there was a strong contingent of about 200 workers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, plus dozens of nurses campaigning for retention of counselling services. Other unions who attended included the Public Service Association and that Maritime Union of Australia.
Brisbane had a strong turnout from the Civil Liberties Network and the United Motorcycle Council. The groups were highlighting Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s undemocratic anti-bikie legislation. The Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement was an issue that several speakers mentioned.
The marches were reported on social media and independent media blogs much more widely and more thoroughly than it was covered in the mainstream media. Many protesters were angered by the refusal by SBS and the ABC to cover the march, instead choosing to report on much smaller St Patrick’s Day parades.
Antony Mann wrote in to the Sydney Morning Herald: “As someone who took part in March in March, I scanned Monday’s Herald with interest, looking forward to reading the report. Thousands of Australians marching across the nation in peaceful protest against a government in power for less than six months was surely an unprecedented event.
Alas, all I could find were a few hundred words on St Patrick's Day. Proof perhaps that Tony Abbott was right. In the eyes of some of the mainstream media, at least, there was only one march on the weekend. And it was not the one that mattered.”
Organisers of the march are discussing holding other rallies in May.