Support for Occupy Sydney

The global Occupy movement has done an amazing job of highlighting issues of social and economic inequality that are widespread across the world. 

At last Monday’s Council meeting I moved this motion to bring about a peaceful and amicable solution to the ongoing dispute between police and protestors and to help get the message of the protests out to a wider audience.

Sadly the motion was voted down by the Clover Moore Party and the Liberals, producing this much more watered down and effectively toothless version of the motion. 

Below is the text of the speech I gave supporting my motion. 

***

The global Occupy movement has done an amazing job of highlighting issues of social and economic inequality that are widespread across the world. 

 But sadly the response to this grassroots social justice movement has been one of violence and intolerance.

In Sydney on the 23rd of October at 4.50am peaceful protestors, who were asleep at the time in Martin Place, were violently dragged from their sleeping bags with 40 being arrested and restrained in paddy wagons. Many were dragged by their feet and hair and received black eyes, bloody noses and abrasions.

Their belongings were yet again removed by a City of Sydney truck with many items being taken straight to the dump. This is in contradiction to assurances given to me that our staff would not assist in the police actions against the demonstrators.

The irony of this happening under the “what if…” banners has not gone unnoticed as many of these banners called for people to stand up for what they believed in.

No matter what you think of the principles of the Occupy movement surely Councillors do not support peaceful protestors being treated in this way which is draconian and inherently thuggish and violent.

The Occupy Sydney movement is being hounded by the police and a rally last Saturday, which was attended by up to 1500 people, had to go to the Supreme Court to deal with objections by the police to the peaceful rally and march route.

The movement is being represented by noted lawyer Stuart Littlemore who is defending those arrested and the movement’s right to free speech and to demonstrate publicly.

I can’t believe that Sydney, a city that prides itself on diversity and the community’s right to free speech can support such aggression and it is important that we as the Council of the City of Sydney complain about the unnecessary brutality of the NSW police. This is why I am calling on the Lord Mayor to seek an investigation into the way the removals of protestors was handled.

I think it is worth noting that the top end of town are making a fortune while the ordinary citizen is struggling more and more to make ends meet.

I would like to highlight the actions of Qantas chief Allan Joyce who received a huge benefits package of over $3 million while trying to shut down the workers claims for a just pay rise and I note that bag handlers and other ground staff earn as little as $42,000 per annum.

In another example we have James Packer fighting against poker machine reform to help those who can least afford unlimited poker machine losses while he earnt over half a billion dollars last year.

The great gap between the top few % and the vast majority of ordinary workers is growing across the world and we only have to look at the huge rallies in Europe and Britain against the extreme austerity measure that are being introduced to cope with the results of the GFC to see how damaging this growing disparity is becoming.

Instead of the bankers and corporations who caused the problems being forced to take a cut in their profits, the ordinary people are the ones who are paying. We only have to look at the huge bank profits to see the injustice of how the existing system is being seen across the world.

It is well known that countries which allow a huge gap between the rich and the poor are likely to become more and more unstable and it is an issue that desperately needs public discussion. In Sydney we have the chance to allow this discussion to take place in an ordered and democratic way rather than resorting to the alienating effects of police brutality.

I know that to some people the protestors presence was an eyesore but in reality it was held at the top of Martin Place which has the least visibility and was one of the most peaceful and inspiring actions I have seen, with a great deal of positive interaction between the protestors and passersby. I heard of one suited employee of the Reserve bank coming down and giving the group a couple of hundred dollar donation.

I personally went down daily to check on the Occupy Sydney site and found it to be extraordinarily peaceful, run on an inclusive democratic system of general assemblies, engaging in very friendly and constructive discussions with passersby, respectful of the Martin Place site and any official objects within it and kept as neat and tidy as was possible. It was regularly tidied up every few hours and it did not block any throughways.

For weeks the Occupy Wall Street protests went unmentioned in the mainstream media, but since activists in Australia and around the world stood up in solidarity with their American counterparts the issue can no longer be ignored. 

While police have dragged non-resisting protestors from the streets in Melbourne, hit civilians with capsicum spray in New York and seriously injured a man with a tear gas canister in California, Sydney could be the city where we carried out peaceful negotiation.  Sydney could be the city that shows the world that, when people raise concerns about the operation of our democracy, we listen. 

While the protests have shown how widespread these views are many people may vehemently agree with the sentiments expressed by the demonstrators but do not feel safe attending a protest rally where they risk arrest and police brutality.

A forum hosted by the City would be an excellent opportunity to allow these concerns to be heard in a forum that can’t be ignored by those who dismiss the protests as a rabble or the “anarchist left”.

It would also be a powerful show of solidarity that would echo across the world if the City of Sydney, Australia’s iconic global City, were to sit down and negotiate a way for the protestors to continue their important action rather than standing by while they are manhandled and persecuted by the police.

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2 responses to “Support for Occupy Sydney

  1. “Instead of the bankers and corporations who caused the problems being forced to take a cut in their profits, the ordinary people are the ones who are paying. We only have to look at the huge bank profits to see the injustice of how the existing system is being seen across the world…” –

    AUSTRALIA has seen some ridiculously unjustifiable salary increases for CEO’s recently – $15 million for the CEO of Coles which is one of this drunken nation’s LIQUOR LOBBY’s main benefactors + a 70% pay rise for the Qantas CEO who chose industrial warfare over proving a reliable service thus spitting on 60,000 customers… BUT there are now also many parallels with the orig OWS movement. That includes the mayor of Melbourne + his cronies watching over the protesters there from his balcony just as the banksters sipped champagne + sneered + laughed at protesters in New York… as well as the overt official violent response there + here!

    One thing IS for sure, though …the forthcoming ‘austerity measures’ + the national ‘bank re-capitalizations’ are all kinds of SLAVERY which will be as bonded servitude for the peoples of these countries for decades if not generations …dutifully repaying their masters’ debts simply to help keep the politicians + their bankster buddies in power + in the game, uhh!

  2. Pingback: Corporate tour of Sydney « Councillor Irene Doutney

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