Socialist Alliance protests the war

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BY MELISSA DANIELS

BRISBANE — While the US rained more bombs down on Afghanistan, the Socialist Alliance organised protests in six suburban centres across Australia on November 3, protesting against racism and war.

One hundred people gathered in the Brisbane suburb of West End. Initiated by the Brisbane branch of the Socialist Alliance, the protest was supported by West Community House, Neighbourhood News, the Grass Roots Resource Centre, the Greens, the Institute for Social Ecology and the Network Opposing War and Racism (NOWAR). The protest demanded an end to the war, refugee rights and justice before reconciliation for indigenous Australians.

A boat of puppet refugees was symbolically welcomed to Australia by the protesters, and given Aboriginal passports. Aboriginal activist Sam Watson, who is a Socialist Alliance Queensland Senate candidate, told the crowd "Let [refugees] share our dreamings". Picture

A rousing march up West End's Boundary Street was applauded by people in local cafes, some joining the demonstration. Alison Stewart from NOWAR told protesters and onlookers that the war on terrorism means "children and babies being killed and hospitals and refugee convoys being hit by these so-called smart bombs".

The rally was concluded by indigenous singer-songwriter Theresa Creed who told her story of being born into a concentration camp and spoke of generations of Aboriginal people being denied citizenship, fair wages, opportunities and even food.

Amanda Mitchell reports that the Saturday shoppers in the normally sleepy Blue Mountains town of Springwood witnessed the mountains' first anti-war march and rally, organised by the Socialist Alliance Blue Mountains branch.

After a welcome and message of solidarity from Dharruk elder Aunty Joan Cooper, the 50-strong protest marched down the main street, chanting: "1, 2, 3, 4, we don't want your racist war; 5, 6, 7, 8, we will not cooperate!" and "Peace is possible, war is not the answer!" People on the footpaths cheered and clapped and drivers honked in support.

When the march reached Buckland Park, local artist and poet David Hill read his latest anti-war poem.

"Starving children are picking up the wrong yellow object", Katoomba NOWAR activist and Socialist Alliance member Susan Barley told the crowd, explaining that the US were simultaneously dropping yellow food parcels and yellow cluster bombs into Afghanistan. "They end up with a belly full of shrapnel instead of a belly full of food. We must stop this horror!"

Melissa Gowen reports that the inner-western Sydney suburb of Burwood witnessed its first demonstration, as 40 people marched up Burwood Road to protest against war and racism in a rally organised by the Socialist Alliance Burwood branch.

Before the speakers had begun, the rally was visited by sitting Labor Party MP for Lowe, John Murphy, who wanted to meet Max Lane, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Lowe, as he had heard so much about him.

Lane criticised the ALP's support for immigration detention centres, to which Murphy replied that he had given three speeches in parliament about the detention centres. Lane told Murphy that he didn't care about his speeches, he wanted the detentions centres closed and real help provided to refugees. Murphy responded, "Well if you don't want to listen", and slunk away.

Socialist Alliance NSW Senate candidate Ian Rintoul told the protesters that the Socialist Alliance is not just about getting votes, although it wants as many people as possible to vote against the war. Regardless of which government is in power after November 10, the campaign against war and racism will need to intensify, Rintoul said.

Greens candidate for Lowe, Mercina Soulos, thanked the Socialist Alliance for inviting her to speak, arguing that the invitation reflects the solidarity between the Greens and the Socialist Alliance in the struggle against the war.

Soulos said that Australia shouldn't enter the war because it is "unwinnable" and she did not want to see "beautiful Australian lives" put at risk.

The rally was also addressed by Iggy Kim of the Korean resource centre and Kim Bullimore from the Indigenous Students Network.

The rally was not without opposition. Max Lane's speech was interrupted by a drive-by megaphonist calling rally participants "traitors to Australia".

In Melbourne, the Socialist Alliance held three simultaneous speak-outs against the war and racism — in Footscray, Preston market and Coburg mall.

Socialist Alliance candidates for the seat of Gellibrand, Jorge Jorquera, and for the Senate, Tony Dewberry, were among the speakers in Footscray, Tony Iltis reports. Jorquera said that the major parties were encouraging attacks on Muslims, pointing out that Newport Mosque has had to employ security guards.

He urged protesters to get involved in the Western Suburbs Peace Network. Socialist Alliance will distribute leaflets at polling booths to publicise the November 14 WSPN meeting.

Graham Matthews reports that the speak-out at Preston market, organised by the Batman branch of the Socialist Alliance, turned into an act of civil disobedience as market security attempted to close it down.

Speakers, including Socialist Alliance candidate for Batman Jackie Lynch, and Alex Bhathal, Australian Greens candidate for the seat, addressed a crowd of 50 people, while alliance members handed out campaign material.

"This is not a war for justice, this is a totally unjust war", Lynch said. Bhathal condemned the government's treatment of asylum seekers.

The speak-out was disrupted by Preston market security staff who objected to the strong political message. Protesters were forced to wrestle with the security officers to secure control of the alliance's megaphone. The security officers then called the police and asked them to force the protesters to leave. However, reluctant to interfere with a political campaign so close to the election, the police refused.

The alliance received considerable support from passers-by in both its right to speak and its message.

Thirty Socialist Alliance members and supporters brought Coberg mall to life, reports Margarita Windisch. The speak-out was organised by the Socialist Alliance Wills branch.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Chris Spindler told bystanders that the AMWU condemned the bombing. Trade unions, he said, needed to mobilise their members against "this unjust war". He reminded the crowd of how successful anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were in stopping the US slaughter of the Vietnamese people.

Other speakers at the action included Refugee Action Collective representative Robert Walker, Debbie Brennan from Radical Women and Greens candidate for Wills Richard Di Natale.

The final speaker was the Socialist Alliance candidate for Wills, David Glanz. Glanz argued passionately that the world needed the sort of war Socialist Alliance was prepared to wage — one on poverty. This required, he argued, the cancellation of Third World debt, the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and support for the Palestinian struggle. Pointing out the ALP had no significant differences with the Coalition on the war, or the persecution of asylum seekers, he urged participants to vote for the Socialist Alliance.

From Green Left Weekly, November 7, 2001.
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