Still from ABC News – ‘Violence on Flinders Street as Police Move on Homeless’
Last year I attended a rally in Melbourne CBD organised by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance in response to the ABC’s coverage of the abuse of juvenile offenders at Don Dale. One of the things that stood out for me was that despite their anger, the young Aboriginal people organising the rally were clear that they didn’t want people getting aggressive or violent. Meriki Onus was saying that they didn’t want any more trouble caused for Aboriginal families by a violent protest because they already have enough trouble to deal with. I noticed at one point someone tried to start a chant of ‘Fuck the police!’ but no-one joined him. We practiced civil disobedience by sitting down in the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets (the two main streets of the city) but we did that peacefully and calmly, and many people stayed past midnight.
I contrast that with what happened on Wednesday last week as rough sleepers were evicted from outside Flinders Street station. A large crowd of anarchists turned up part way through the eviction and looking for a fight with police. One guy ended up punching an officer in the back of the head and five people were arrested altogether.
Being arrested at a protest might not be a big deal for plenty of activists, but it could be much more serious for someone who is sleeping rough. Like many Aboriginal families, I would think that folks who are sleeping rough already have enough trouble to deal with without being arrested for protest violence as well. I think activists need to be led by the people they’re claim to advocate for. I don’t think that can be done on the fly.