By Liam Hazell
CANBERRA — Some 1500 people rallied outside the National Press Club on July 8 to protest against Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party. The protesters outnumbered Hanson supporters by 10 to one.
At the rally, organised by the Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC), popular slogans included "Migrants are welcome, racists are not!" and "Hanson is a puppet and Howard pulls her strings!". Many drivers honked in support until the police started giving motorists $100 on-the-spot fines. This provoked an angry response from the crowd and led to two arrests.
Police were deployed in great numbers, including a squad from the tactical response group which formed three barriers to quarantine protesters across the road from the Press Club. A small group of protesters, chanting "Shut down the meeting", tried to march behind police lines in front of the Press Club.
"Attempts to shut down One Nation meetings make protesters look like the enemies of democracy, rather than Pauline Hanson and One Nation", Resistance activist Kamini Junankar told Green Left Weekly. "It draws attention away from the real issue — that Pauline Hanson and One Nation are encouraging racism."
Anti-racism activists were disappointed that the protest was not endorsed by the ACT Trades and Labour Council, nor by unions.
"A federal ALP MP informed an ARC activist that the ALP has a 'consensus' that it will not support such rallies", trade union activist Tim Gooden told Green Left.
"This flowed on to the TLC, where the vote, led by the CFMEU, went against endorsing the rally. Many trade unionists are annoyed that trade union leaderships don't seem to be prepared to address such a fundamental issue as racism."
Gooden said he wasn't surprised by the ALP's decision. "The ALP prefers the 'ignore Hanson and she'll go away' policy because Hanson is drawing attention to the fact that it and Coalition aren't really doing anything to address the major economic and social problems of today."
Earlier in the day, a rally for racial respect in the city drew a crowd of about 400 people, many of whom attended the evening demonstration.
The One Nation meeting was held at the National Press Club after being refused permission to use other venues. The Press Club decided to host the meeting on the basis that it is a forum for "free speech". However, as a caller to ABC radio pointed out, the Press Club has in the past refused to allow people such as anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott to speak.
David Ettridge, federal director of One Nation, declared that the leaders of the anti-One Nation protests should be arrested for inciting people to civil disobedience.
Sue Bull, ARC member and Democratic Socialist candidate in the next ACT election, scoffed at this suggestion. "First, we made it clear, both on leaflets and through the media, that we intended this to be a peaceful rally.
"Second, what about incitement to hatred? The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, recently de-funded by the Howard government, has reported an increase in attacks on the basis of race since Hanson's maiden speech to parliament. And a number of Green Left Weekly sellers have in the past few weeks been attacked by thugs yelling 'Heil Hanson!'"
Rally participants were invited by the TLC to an organising meeting for an anti-racist rally scheduled for August 9.