On October 27 a public meeting at Brunswick Town Hall discussed "public space vs. market place". University of Melbourne lecturer David Nichols discussed the design of modern shopping centres, which discouraged people from gathering in groups even for informal discussion. Victorian branch secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union Trevor Dobbyn spoke of his experiences in the struggle for the right to march in Queensland in the 1970s — a struggle in which thousands were arrested.
A huge police crackdown on protesters at the June 26-27 G20 Summit in Toronto last week ended in the arrests of hundreds of primarily peaceful activists. Canadian group Socialist Project issued this statement on June 30 in solidarity with the protesters targeted by police. It is reprinted from The Bullet. * * * The massive police presence in Toronto over this week has been officially justified on the basis of protecting the leaders of the G8 and G20 countries meeting in Huntsville and Toronto.
Green Left Weekly has won a victory in its free speech struggle at Brunswick’s Barkly Square shopping centre. Management stopped our stalls in late November and offered us a completely unacceptable deal. We began our defence campaign in late February and over the next three months it developed considerable momentum. The response from shoppers was warm and extremely heartening. About 1000 people signed our petition. People were clearly outraged at the ban and concerned at the ongoing privatisation of public space.
We supposedly live in a free country. But do we actually have free speech in Australia? Obviously, the situation here is completely different to an outright dictatorship. In some countries, there is no right to produce a paper like Green Left Weekly, no right to protest, and dissidents are jailed and tortured. In Australia, we do have some real and important democratic rights. However, there are severe practical limitations on effectively exercising these rights — that is, exercising them in a way that anyone actually hears what you're saying.