Thousand disrupt streets to protect protest
Written by: Nick G. on 27 May 2023
Photo: ABC News Che Corley
It took hundreds of years of bloody struggle to establish the right to use public space for expressions of protest.
And it took the Liberal and Labor parties in the SA Parliament just 22 minutes to introduce changes to the summary Offences Act to introduce harsh new penalties to take away that right.
As one commentator on radio said, you usually need a calendar and a sundial to follow the snail’s pace of legislation through parliament, but this only needed a stop-watch.
It beat the previous record of just under 24 hours that it took for SA politicians to vote to effectively exempt themselves from scrutiny by the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption in September 2021.
No wonder a thousand people braved overcast skies and the threat of rain last night to gather at Parliament House to voice their opposition to the changes.
For around an hour, they listened to speakers from among the 80 unions and community groups that had signed an open letter to the government calling on it to withdraw the changes.
The changes came in the wake of an Extinction Rebellion protest against the Petroleum Producers and Explorers conference, at which the State’s Minerals and Energy Minister had pledged the government to be at the “disposal” of the fossil fuel industry.
Among the speakers was the President of the Australian Education Union in SA, Andrew Gohl, who linked the Eureka Rebellion, the Suffragettes, and the anti-Vietnam War protests as examples of the necessary disruption required to change bad laws. He ended by reciting the Eureka Oath: We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.
By this stage, the crowd had swelled out onto North Terrace, blocking two lines of traffic.
When the time came to march, the whole of North Terrace was blocked, as was King William Street, into which they turned.
Massed chanting of slogans filled the air.
“Whose streets? Our streets?”
“Tell me what democracy looks like – This is what democracy looks like”.
Then, in joyful shows of defiance, several sit-downs occurred as the march turned into Rundle Mall.
Even if the Labor government and the Opposition (better named “Partners”) get these laws through, they won’t cow people prepared to dare to struggle.
They won’t silence those who believe that defiance of reactionary laws is a good thing.
The harsher the laws, the sharper the struggle.
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