Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray gained notoriety on October 25 for throwing shoes at former prime minister John Howard on ABC’s political talk show, Q&A.
Gray is a long-time activist committed to non-violent direct action. He is a member of climate action group Rising Tide and has also been involved in a variety of social justice campaigns.
Gray’s decision to throw his shoes at Howard was a homage to Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at former US president George Bush during a press conference in December 2008.
Howard was on Q&A to promote his new book and answer questions about his legacy. Gray unleashed his barrage after Howard dodged his questions about the legality of supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq.
"I did it so there was a chance that thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, in the rest of the world, particularly in the Middle East, could see that not every Australian was behind the decision to invade and rule in the country of Iraq”, He told ABC Radio on October 26.
"I did it for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dead and those that are still living."
Protests like Gray’s are necessary because the sanitised memoirs of the likes of Howard and former British PM Tony Blair try to cover up war crimes that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
The mainstream media helps this cover-up, just as it helped promote the lies that justified the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I certainly believe that it was necessary”, Gray said. “Because John Howard led this country into a war which resulted in the deaths of over 60,000 civilians.
"He has never been held accountable for that. I believe that he should be arraigned before the International Criminal Court and charged with war crimes.”
Gray was escorted from the studio by ABC security. Zaidi, by contrast, was imprisoned and tortured — a grisly reminder of the reality behind Howard’s claim that his war brought freedom and democracy to Iraq.
The next day, Australian PM Julia Gillard condemned Gray’s action, while Howard laughed it off. Both would prefer to see the truth of the wars they take part in fade into the background.
The shoe throwing received global media attention, achieving its aim of showing the world that there is dissent in Australia to the bipartisan policy of participating in illegal wars.