BY BRONWEN BEECHEY
ADELAIDE — "George W. Bush has said that anyone who is not supporting his 'war against terrorism' is standing with the terrorists. Well, we are here to tell George W. Bush that we don't stand with him or with the terrorists. We stand with millions of others around the world calling for peace and social justice", Steven Spence, chairperson of the SA United Trades and Labor Council's international committee, told a cheering crowd of 1000 people on October 13.
The rally, organised by the Network Opposing War and Racism, was one of six simultaneous peace demonstrations in some of Australia's biggest cities.
The demonstration in Adelaide was also addressed Don Jarrett from the Australian Peace Committee, who reminded the rally that while around 6000 people were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, on the same day around 35,000 children around the world died of starvation. "While we rightly mourned for the victims of the World Trade Centre bombing, how many mourned for those 35,000 children?", he asked.
Citing an arson attack on the Gilles Plains Islamic Centre on October 11, Cate Faehrmann from the Greens called for the Australian government to provide funding for extra security for Muslim places of worship.
"We need a people's alternative to the pro-war, pro-big business policies of the Liberals and the so-called opposition", Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Kathy Newnam told the crowd. "It was ordinary people who helped the East Timorese win their independence. If we keep organising and protesting we can stop this war too."
Marching to Parliament House, protesters called out: "Good for the rich, bad for the poor, we don't want your racist war". Banners emblazoned "Islam is not the enemy, war is not the answer" and "War will not stop terrorism" bobbed up and down while "urban guerilla musicians for peace" Encore marched behind a banner proclaiming "make music, not war".
In Melbourne, Graham Matthews reports, 1500 people met at the Arts Centre on St Kilda Road. The rally was initially called as part of an international day of action against the US proposed missile defence system. After military action began in Afghanistan, rally organisers decided to incorporate anti-war demands.
At the conclusion of a speaking platform that included representatives of the Greens, the Socialist Alliance, Nuclear Free Australia and the Western Suburbs Legal Centre, the rally marched to the US consulate.
At the US consulate the rally dispersed, with some of those attending deciding to establish a protest tent-city at the State Library in Swanston Street.
A spirited demonstration of 2000 people marched through Sydney, Dale Mills and Tamara Pearson report, carrying banners which included "Food and bombs do not go together" and "Money for jobs not war".
Organised by the Network Against War and Racism, the rally started from Sydney Town Hall where protesters were addressed by a wide range of speakers and the popular band Urban Guerrillas. Marching to the US consulate in Martin Place, the protesters chanted what has now become a sentiment among people in every major city in Australia — "1, 2, 3 ,4 we don't want your racist war; 5, 6, 7, 8 we will not co-operate".
Addressing the rally at Town Hall, Andrew Ferguson, the state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, told the rally that the CFMEU had debated a motion of support for the rally for three hours before deciding to participate in and fully support it. Comparing this war with the Vietnam War, he said that it wasn't governments or laws that stopped the war but "our community [which needs] to broaden the movement by taking it to the streets".
High school student and Resistance member Lauren Carroll-Harris argued that under the guise of fighting terrorism, the Howard government wanted to make political dissent more difficult and strengthen the powers of intelligence services. She explained that among the measures that Howard had proposed was one that would impose a five-year jail term for failing to give information about suspected "terrorist" activity. She called on high school students to walk out of schools on October 18 and assemble in Sydney's Hyde Park at 2.30pm.
The protesters came from different backgrounds and ages. "We are against war, coming from Turkey. [As Turkey] is currently experiencing war, we know what it means", Nurcan, who described herself as a mother and student, told Green Left Weekly.
"I'm here for justice and peace" said Mary Lee, an office worker who "used to be a Labor voter". Nine-year old Engin knew why she was there: "I'm here so there can be no war, I don't want countries to be damaged".
Some people cited the other issues as well. "I'm enraged and upset about the war and concerned about the refugee issue, it's a disgrace, I'm ashamed to be an Australian citizen", said Dorathea Chapman.
"The US has put an embargo on Afghanistan, and tried to hide it with all its food dropping propaganda", explained Amnesty International member Bosco. "Imagine if they replayed the collapse of the twin towers, and replaced the term 'victim' with 'collateral damage'."
One participant, who wished to remain anonymous, summed up the mood: "What if Bush called a war, and no one came? There couldn't be a war. That's why I'm here today."
A rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine", currently banned by most commercial US radio stations, began a 500-strong protest in Fremantle, Chris Latham reports. The protest, organised jointly by the Coalition Against War and Racism and the Network for Justice Not Revenge, demanded an end to both the war in Afghanistan and Bush's National Missile Defense (NMD) program.
"We don't care what colour people are, what their religion is or what language they speak, but remember that we are all one, we are all human beings", Farid Kakar, the secretary of the Afghan Social Council told the crowd.
Explaining why the NMD must be opposed, Judyth Blyth from the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia said that it "will not stop people with knives, it is a false claim, only justice will stop terrorism".
The rally also heard from unionist and Socialist Alliance member Chris Cain and Greens Senate candidate Rachel Siewart.
Around 200 people gathered in Garema Place in Canberra, reports Stuart Munckton. Before marching to the offices of Liberal Senator Margaret Reid and ALP MP Bob McMullin, speakers highlighted the racism of the war.
Suhail, a Muslim from Pakistan, pointed out the hypocrisy in the American patriotism after the September 11 attacks: "I lost a cousin in the attack so don't tell me this is just an attack on America!"
"The loss of one Afghan life is the same as the loss of one Australian life", James Vassilopoulos, Senate candidate for the seat of Fraser told the crowd. "This is a war on refugees as well as a war on Afghanistan", he added, pledging to hide any escaped refugees.
One hundred and fifty people attended a protest in Lismore.