Last night Council voted to have the police throw a group of mostly homeless people out of a part of the City because they had become a ‘blight’.
The Occupy Sydney group have been maintaining a presence in Martin Place for around 18 months and over that time what started as a protest against social inequality has morphed into a community outreach program, where homeless and poor people gather food and resources and distribute them to those in need, as well as providing invaluable social support to each other. However following a press release from a Liberal candidate for the upcoming Federal election which labelled the Occupy site as a ‘shanty town’ and it’s participants ‘a blight on Sydney’ Liberal Councillors Christine Forster joined the hysteria and moved a motion to have them thrown out by the police.
Sadly, despite Occupiers engaging in a creative protest that showed their generosity – hosting a free barbecue for passersby outside Town Hall – the motion was supported by everyone except for myself and Labor Councillor Linda Scott.
I found the elitist attitude behind this move, which the Liberals involved tried to score political points off by making tenuous links with “this dysfunctional Labor government” (who have no authority to intervene in what is a Council matter), absolutely disgusting. The Occupy protestors cause no harm to anyone – they’ve kept the site tidy, even cleaning up after people who make a mess when they emerge drunk from the ritzy bars nearby, and have a rule of not approaching people who don’t approach them first.
Occupy has been a presence for good in our City in the time they’ve been in Martin Place. They’ve helped people who wanted help and left everyone else to their own devices while serving as a subtle reminder that problems of inequality are sadly still rife in modern day Australia. Once they’re evicted, and the Liberals political interests served, I think they will be sorely missed.
The speech I gave to Council on the matter can be found here.