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Swastikas and white power slogans were sprayed onto a number of Indian-owned and other stores and restaurants in West Footscray, Melbourne, in the early hours of March 5. However, within hours a team of volunteers appeared to scrub out Nazi symbols and slogans such as "white power" and "niggers must die" from Barkly Street shop and restaurant windows and fences. Brett Long, who organised the clean-up, said he wanted to send the message that the local community overwhelmingly supported the businesses and those who ran them.
A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament. If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year’s jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.
In the face of the brutal and immoral reaction of the European Union to the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into Europe from wars and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa, Barcelona council has taken the initiative to set up a network of Mediterranean city councils prepared to welcome and house asylum seekers. Barcelona is already part of a broader network of European cities welcoming refugees.
Smiling NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird is showing himself to be yet another ruthless political gangster for the billionaire class and a wide range of people are uniting in resistance to his assaults on democracy. On March 13, contingents from all around NSW joined in protest against the state Liberal government's attempts to remove the democratic rights of local communities by forcing amalgamation of almost half of the state’s local councils, reducing the number of councils from 152 to 112.
Amnesty International Western Sydney University students hosted a forum at the Parramatta campus on March 15. Speakers included James Arvanitakis, Debra Keenahan, Luce De Buitleir Andrews and Sev Ozdowski. Keenahan spoke about how refugees had become “dehumanised” since former PM John Howard said: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.
Hundreds rallied and marched in Sydney and Melbourne on March 12 to protest the federal government's "review" of the Safe Schools program. They were there to show support for the program, which aims to promote acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and addresses issues of bullying and vilification of young people who may be confused about or questioning their sexuality or gender identity. About 500 schools around Australia have signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition, which is convened by the Foundation for Young Australians.
Unicef representative in Yemen Meritxell Relano said on March 17 that the death toll from a Saudi air raid two days earlier had reached 119. The Morning Star said on March 18 that the Saudi strike on Mastaba in the north-western Hajja province also wounded 47 people. The dead include 22 children.
LGBTIQ activist Sally Goldner was inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll on March 7. The Honour Roll acknowledges and celebrates the outstanding achievements of Victorian women. Goldner is the first trans woman to be inducted into the Honour Roll. She said: “It’s really affirming for myself and for trans and bi woman that this recognition has happened. To be in the company of such a diverse range of women is very empowering.”
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement By Angela Davis Haymarket Books, 2016 180 pages, $15.95. In the summer of 2014, images spread across the world of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, facing off against police in riot gear, driving tanks and hurling tear gas grenades in the wake of the police shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown.
Slick Water: Fracking – and One Insider’s Stand Against the World’s Most Powerful Industry Andrew Nikiforuk Greystone Books/David Suzuki Institute 2015, 350 pages The fracturing of rocks to mine more fossil fuels was born with the oil business, writes the Canadian journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk, in Slick Water. During the world’s first oil boom in Pennsylvania in the 1850s, highly volatile nitro-glycerine and other explosives were used on sluggish wells with lethal risk, to turn them into gushers by creating new fractures to channel blocked oil to the surface.
More than a hundred people attended a public meeting in Coburg on March 10 to oppose the construction of residential towers, including a 19-storey tower, on the Pentridge prison site. Save Coburg organised the meeting. A number of resolutions were passed at the meeting, including one to set up a community campaign group. This is a vital step as state government and local council have proved themselves incapable of defending the rights of the community on this issue and have allowed developers' greed to rule.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 16. A group of 730 leading Latin American experts and scholars have called for United States Secretary of State John Kerry to halt aid and support to Honduras until the Central American country improves its atrocious human rights record.