Thousands oppose G20

Issue 

Three to four thousand people joined a rally and march against the G20 meeting on November 18. The rally opposed the neoliberal and militarist agenda of the meeting, which brought together finance ministers from the G8 group of rich nations, Australia, the European Union and 10 economically significant Third World nations, as well as the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

After listening to speakers outside the State Library, the crowd marched toward the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the G20 was meeting, ending with a street carnival close to the hotel. Authorities had locked down the immediate vicinity of the hotel in a much-hyped security operation.

Some small groups of protesters clashed with police while attempting to get closer to the meeting. Establishment media seized on the scuffles to present exaggerated reports of "violence" at what was a mostly peaceful protest.

Speakers included Robbie Thorpe from the Black GST, who pointed out how the militarism and poverty created by the G20 mirrored the history of white Australia. "This country was built from a penal colony like Guantanamo Bay", he said.

Pointing out that the United Nations has described Aboriginal Australia as the second-poorest community in the world, and that the terra nullius doctrine on which Australia was founded was "premeditated criminal genocide", Thorpe said of the Commonwealth government: "Regime change should start here."

Jenny Kruschel from the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union talked about outworkers in Australia being paid $2-$3 per day, adding that their counterparts overseas got virtually nothing. She referred to the blackmailing of workers at the Feltex factories in Melbourne's west as examples of where PM John Howard's "Work Choices" was leading.

Sheik Isse Musse, the Imam of the Virgin Mary Mosque in Hoppers Crossing, described the protesters as "people of good will, representatives of the voiceless and advocates of the poor". He described the G20 as "Ali Baba and the 20 thieves", adding that the "free market" was not free with 20 thieves setting the agenda for the poor and degrading the earth itself.

Musse described how his own continent, Africa, is being exploited by debt. Nigeria, he said, despite having paid US$16 billion off an original debt of $5 billion, now owes $32 billion. This is bloodsucking worse than mosquitos, he said, adding that if World Bank head Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the US war on Iraq who was at the G20 meeting, had any remorse for the million of deaths he'd caused, he would make policies that brought justice to Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Margarita Windisch from Melbourne's Stop the War Coalition also drew the link between poverty and war. "While the G20 is meeting, 50,000 children will die of preventable diseases, thousands of women will die in childbirth and hundreds will be massacred on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet when Bono craps on about 'making poverty history' he never mentions the wars. Well, I have a message for him: if you really want to make poverty history, help get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan!"

Producing a pair of handcuffs and a "warrant" for Wolfowitz, Windisch suggested that the rally should put him under citizen's arrest for crimes against humanity.

A statement from Queensland Indigenous leader and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson was read to mark the second anniversary of the death in custody of Mulrunji. It said, in part: "At this very moment, people are gathering across this land to pay homage and respect to the family, friends and community of our fallen brother Mulrunji, who was violently and criminally assaulted by a Queensland police officer, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, in the Palm Island watch-house ...

"Hurley and his colleagues in the Queensland Police Service are not above the law. They must be reminded in the most clear and unambiguous manner that their blue uniforms are not licences to bash, terrorise and murder Aboriginal people or any other person in their custody." A minute's silence was held, followed by a cheer for the courageous acts of resistance by Palm Islanders following attempts to whitewash the murder.

Other speakers included Mexican activist Heriberto Falas, who spoke on behalf of those involved in the struggle against tyranny in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and Aunty Susan from a local Indigenous community.