On the morning of May 31, international students in Melbourne began a powerful protest against the recent street violence that has targeted South Asian international students in particular.
Several thousand protesters converged on Flinders Street Station. Like the taxi drivers' protest last year, also responding to the same racist violence, they occupied the intersection. When the police forcibly removed them with batons and horses at 5am the next morning, there were still several hundred protesting.
The government must work with these students to find solutions to the violence. Sending in police to break up a legitimate protest action is something all progressive people must condemn.
Further protests involving the broad community are needed to provide a public show of strength against racism, and to destroy the confidence of the racists. Trade unions and community organisations need to work together with the international students to plan such protests.
Violence against South Asian students is currently in the spotlight, but racially motivated violence against immigrants is not new. The drop in social services such as staff on train stations and tram conductors can be blamed in part, as can the increasing xenophobia encouraged by the government and right-wing media's treatment of refugees.
Protests should not simply call for wishy-washy "harmony" or "tolerance", as state government initiatives do. There are simple measures that can directly contribute to preventing racial (or any other) violence on the streets, and the government ought to be held accountable.
The Socialist Alliance has issued a call with the following demands on the government:
The staffing of all train stations and bus interchanges, as long as services are running;
Frequent and regular public transport at night time to minimise time spent waiting in the streets;
Rigorous criminal investigation into any assaults that may be racially motivated. All efforts must be made to identify the perpetrators and for due legal process to be followed immediately;
A transparent public investigation into any allegations that police have not responded in timely fashion to such incidents or have not taken reports of racist attacks seriously; and
Release immediately without charge the 18 protesters who were arrested during the protest.
We also support the calls made by the Federation of Indian
Student Associations, in particular for:
Adequate on-campus accommodation for all international students;
Compensation and a blanket insurance policy for all students covering ambulance, accidents and assaults; and
Crime statistics to be made public.
The Socialist Alliance hopes that broad protests against racism and violence can be convened and that demands such as these can be part of them. We call on anyone interested in helping to organise broad anti-racist protests to contact Socialist Alliance Victoria on (03) 9639 8622.