On September 17, people from all across the United States joined the social movement that has been spreading throughout the world against the blatant injustices perpetuated by the 1% (economic and political elite) whose actions affect the rest of us, the 99%. They spoke out, resisted and successfully occupied Wall Street, New York, along with more than 50 other cities in the United States.
Today they proudly remain engaged in non-violent civil disobedience while building solidarity based on mutual respect, recognition and compassion. On October 15 people in all corners of the world united in a global demonstration to claim our right to a true democracy and the power to determine our future. This included Melbourne, who occupied City Square.
On 19 October, during radio interview City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle stated that he wanted a peaceful end to the protest, but that the onus was on authorties to end the group's presence by force if necessary. Nick Carson, an Occupy Melbourne protester, indicated that the group had not been asked to leave and had no plans to do so, stating "There is no justification to move us on and I reiterate ... if the Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, thinks we've already made our point then he doesn't understand what the point of the Occupy Together movement is". Eventually, the Police were asked to evict protesters from the Square.
On 21 October, over 100 police, some dressed in riot gear, forceably and violently removed protesters from City Square. Robert Doyle was accused of overreacting to the protest, while police denied they had used excessive force while removing protesters. It was noted that a number of police had removed their name tags. Greens MP Adam Bandt stated that "Premier Ted Baillieu and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle have made a huge blunder by sending in the police, turning a week-long non-violent protest into a site of confrontation." 95 people were arrested and 1 was taken to hospital for treatment
Occupy Melbourne called for a full inquiry into unlawful police behaviour and violence associated with their eviction of participants of the Occupy Melbourne protest.
On Sunday 23 October, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu praised police for the way they broke up the Occupy Melbourne protest on Friday and said protesters had broken their promise to leave peacefully.
Robert Doyle stated that the Occupy Melbourne protesters were "a self-righteous, narcissistic, self-indulgent rabble tried to capture the city." and that
- "Occupy Melbourne"? Maybe. But also a hard core of serial and professional protesters, hell-bent on trouble, infiltrating a protest for their own purposes, then holding the city to ransom."
- "The protest was infiltrated by professionals: what were those knives, hammers, bottles, bricks and fuel for? And what happened to the solemn promises by the "real" Occupy Melbourne spokespeople that they would leave peacefully when required?"
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said the Occupy demonstrations in Australia and around the world have intensified debate about social and economic inequality in societies across the globe. However, Mr Swan said while the protests don't have a concrete set of aims or demands, those in Sydney and Melbourne should not have resulted in violence.
- "There seems to be a growing sense of frustration in many countries that opportunities are not being evenly shared and that the burden of the global economic downturn has been carried by those that can least bear it."
On Monday 24 October Robert Doyle stated that "We don't intend to allow people to set up tents anywhere in the city. We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy."
Why Occupy Melbourne?
We face similar problems with our democracy here in Victoria and Australia as people face in most other developed nations. Our democracy is unwell. Our elected representatives no longer represent their constituents, instead their ears are turned by wealthy lobby groups, whilst the common interests of the people they were elected to represent, are ignored. Some levels of our government are also rife with corruption.
It's time our elected representatives actually started representing the 99% of the population who don't have enormous wealth and political influence. Who suffer the social, economic and environmental consequences of corporate greed. Who work to generate enormous wealth for a mere 1% of the population.
Inspired by the actions of those striving for democracy in North Africa and the Middle East, and similar demonstrations throughout Europe and more recently, in the United States. From these events, "Occupy Together", a global social movement for real democracy, has grown. It is this global movement that Occupy Melbourne is a part of.
What's happened so far?
The people of Melbourne peacefully occupied the public space of City Square from October 15 - 21, holding six General Assemblies before being violently evicted by the City of Melbourne, after calls from the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to "move on". A traumatic Friday, October 21, saw many thousands of people pushed through the city streets throughout the day, before seeking refuge from the police in Trades Hall.
The following day, thousands more demonstrated through the city streets against the police violence seen the previous day. Melbourne's eighth General Assembly was held on the steps of Trades Hall, in which the people of Melbourne decided by consensus to relocate the camp to Treasury Gardens from Saturday October 29, onwards.
Treasury Gardens was a 24/7 battleground between Occupy Melbourne and the Melbourne City Council. In daily raids (sometimes more), the Council issuing notices to comply on marquees, tents, food items, logistical piles of personal items and sleeping equipment. It was not usual to see 30+ police on a daily basis during this time.
Occupy Melbourne decided to put the Council off its guard, noticing that Council and Police both enjoyed the idea of structured tactics. In a matter of hours, the occupation site was moved to Gordon Reserve.
A change of heart in confidence after 1 day (due to the police/council presence) again moved the site to Flagstaff Gardens. Flagstaff provided some amazing moments with the Tent Monster meme created out of a creative action to bypass the councils newly discovered ban on tents for shelter whilst occupiers slept. Tent Monsters went viral, but so did the scandal involving the disrobing of an Occupier out of a tent costume.
Due to 24/7 police presence and constant council intimidation, numbers dwindled drastically in late December - these numbers never recovered, despite a productive planning phase whilst a small group of occupiers camped at Father Bob's Church in South Melbourne, producing the Occupy Fridays event, which had reasonable success in being a weekly event in Melbourne's CBD showcasing the ideals of Occupy (with restriction from council).
A Federal Court Case was launched against Melbourne City Council over their use of these by-laws to shut down the protest, awaiting verdict.
Who got this started?
The people of Melbourne. Occupy Melbourne is not affiliated with any political party, Adbusters, Anonymous or any other organisation. We come from a wide range of beliefs, ideas, opinions, political ideologies and backgrounds, young and old. Occupy Melbourne was directly inspired by Occupy Wall Street and other movements inspiring us to Occupy Together, like Democracia Real Ya in Spain, though Occupy Melbourne exists independently from these movements.
Isn't Australia being illegally occupied already?
It certainly is. When European settlers first declared ownership of the continent of Australia, it was declared “Terra Nullius”or “land belonging to no one”, despite the fact that millions of people already sustainably occupied the continent for tens of thousands of years prior to European arrival.
Occupy Melbourne recognises that this demonstration will take place on the land of the Wurundjeri people, of the Woiwurrung language group, of the Kulin nation, who are the traditional owners of the land which Melbourne occupies. We encourage Melbourne’s Indigenous community to join in our efforts to peacefully occupy City Square, and to share their grievances and hopes for the future so that we might unite and build a more just Australia together.
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