Welcome to Occupy Melbourne

OccupyMelbourne

Occupy Melbourne is Melbourne-Australia’s response/contribution to the world-wide Occupy movement.

WE ARE THE 99%.

We started out protest on the 15th of October 2011 by setting up camp in City Square. Its primary areas of concern consist of the wide, unfair disparity between the rich and the poor, social discrimination, bribery and fraud in the financial sectors, insatiability of corporations for power and wealth, and the sway that corporations and lobbyists hold over the government.

About seven days after the occupation, the Melbourne City-Council gave out a memorandum to the organization, demanding their compliance on several issues. The protesters were asked to break camp, to leave the City square with all their possessions and paraphernalia, citing certain bylaws that addressed setting camp and putting/hanging items on/over the City Square. A deadline was set. The organization, however, decided to stay put, saying that their occupation was peaceful and that they intended to stay on.

Past the set deadline, the City of Melbourne responded by calling on its police-force for assistance. The plan was to break up the crowd. They tried to do this by removing basic things like tents, beddings, and paraphernalia.

Police built make-shift hedges surrounding the protest area. The protesters were hemmed in, while media-people stood on lofty places to get a good view of the proceedings.

The policemen proceeded to forcefully remove the camp’s infrastructure, binning them while the protesters linked arms defying them. The food tents, as well as the communications tents, were all dismantled and dumped into a vehicle brought over for the purpose.

The members of the movement, on the other hand, tried to stand their ground, resisting the overpowering police strength to pull them out of their occupied space. All through the confrontation, CFMEU constituents stood just side of the square, contributing their own call for unity of the” 99%,” calling out that those who stand in unity will not face defeat.

This setting up of camp in City Square and the subsequent firm refusal to leave in spite of the memorandum issued was seen by many people as a move orchestrated to provoke Lord Mayor into calling in police-power to wield shield and force to try to disband the tents and scatter the crowds away. Premier Ted Baillieu supported Doyle’s decision to call in the police to evict the protesters.

There were people who favored the eviction. Some counseled that the group had been given enough time to voice out their sentiments and that it was time to pack up and leave.

Many shared the opinion that that the police reaction was uncalled for – some say “vicious and fierce,” not proportionate at all to the to the apparently no-force protest. The procedures that the police used to disperse the crowd came into intense scrutiny. One police-horse crushed a protester when the riot-squadron and policemen on horseback came charging up the junction of the square.

Some people say that the violent reaction of both the mayor and the police force was bound to be perceived as a gaffe, a tactical mistake likely to cultivate sympathy for the protesters.

About the Movement

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To many people, the seven-day protest seemed “peaceful and not violent” at all. Calling in the riot-police resulted in changing the general sentiment and ambiance – making the scene confrontational and controversial. Victorian-premier Ted Baillieu and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle received a lot of criticism for their attempts to resolve the situation in such a manner.

Many officials previously stated that the resolution of the clash would be peaceful. The crowd would be dispersed in a quiet and uneventful manner. Interviewed just before the descent on the square, Inspector Mick Beattie said that there was no plan to arrest the activists, that the protesters and the police shared feelings of mutual acceptance and cordiality all through the week of occupation. It was simply the goal of the police force to induce the protesters to leave, without using violent measures. All the police wanted was to claim back the square for the people of Melbourne. Their strategy was to patiently persuade the demonstrators to leave.

Other policemen did not agree, however. It was their opinion that a clash of this sort can only end bitterly.

The ensuing confrontations resulted in the arrest of several people, some of them leaving the location with their hands cuffed. Some police officers were reportedly hurt in the fray. The protesters also reported grave injuries including eye gashes, blows on the face and neck, scratches and cuts, as well as injuries resulting from the use of pepper spray. Some children were also reportedly harmed in the subsequent fracas.

Doyle said that the decision was reasonable, coming as it were from the assessment that the protesters were a group of highly sanctimonious, self-important, and unrestrained individuals, motivated by several hard-core protesters who have made staging loud, violent, difficult and irrational protests their life mission. He said that the city is determined to keep people from setting up tents wherever and whenever they wanted to in the city.

Occupy Melbourne later demanded that a thorough public enquiry be done regarding the expulsion but no action was taken in this regard. The group eventually filed a report with the Australian Federal-Court, saying that a suspected violation of the federal-law was committed by the city council.

Mayor Doyle had previously put up accounts on Facebook and Twitter to gain election-campaign mileage in social media. Protesters began using these accounts to drum up sympathy for their cause and to make public their call for a public enquiry into their allegations of police brutality at the City Square expulsion. Doyle countered by deleting these accounts.

In spite of efforts on the part of the government, the supporters kept up their camp, sustaining hefty occupation which lasted for a whole quarter of a year until January of the succeeding-2012. This prolonged support was partially funded by local business, notably Goldstar Bartending. CEO Rob Doherty was quoted as saying, “There aren’t many times in your life when you have a chance to give back. I see myself as part of the 99%, despite being a business owner. This was my time.”

After the movement began, people have taken part in various assemblies, public gatherings, protest-marches, demos and the like to give voice to their concerns. To date it maintains camp on an intermittent basis to give express its views.

Flagstaff-Gardens were also occupied by members of the movement. On one such night, several protesters draped their tents over their bodies to annoy the members of the police force who appeared to disperse the group. The police tried to remove the tent by force from one member who defied their efforts. The protesters then appealed to all Occupy-members in other countries to “dress” in tents as a symbol of their fight for human-rights.

How to Deal With Opposition

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Many people have conflicting opinions regarding the Occupy-movement. Many opine that a sound and organized list of demands have to first be articulated so that the movement can gain serious ground in their fight. The absence of a clear and united agenda may be a strong deterrent to its progress. Others say that this lack of goals is at the heart of the movement, that there may be a variety of programmes for different Occupy movements, and that these movements are one in that they uphold their right to civil-disobedience.

Many other demonstrations seem to have been encouraged by the Occupy movement.

There seems to be a lot of people disillusioned with rundown current state of affairs – in economy, in government, in politics. Almost all protests in this classic year of restlessness seem to focus on the economic recession and the growing tremendous disparity between the few rich and powerful and the rest – in economic as well as in political clout and domination. A principal gripe is about the grave injustices/iniquities brought on by the lopsided large-scale/global and local corporate muscle. The Occupy protests are all around – in Greece where people strongly complain about austerity-measures, in Israel where protesters rally against the continuing mounting cost of prices, in New York with its Occupy Wall Street movement, in Spain where the youth protest the lack of jobs available for them.

Many individuals disdain this lack of direction on the part of the movement. To many, the statements are too generalized, over-simplified, too sweeping. There seems to be a lack of a clear missive of mission and vision, no well-defined problems or solutions which will serve to unite people to its cause. A lot of people look with this disdain at this lack, opining that if the movement fails to put down in clear terms what their goals are and how they intend to attain them, they should not make too much of a raucous. Many people seem to feel that the protesters are protesting for the sake of protesting, without putting much thought and planning into what it is exactly they intend to work for and achieve.

To sympathizers, however, this is not a valid reason for censure. One can tell that something is decidedly wrong with the present state of affairs and has the right to point this out to anybody, without possessing clear-cut and precise ideas on how to resolve the problems. One should be able to justifiably protest the status-quo, to bring out into the open his grievances, without knowing exactly what to do to put things right. Those who are aggrieved are not always in the position to know how to turn things onto the right direction. If their right to express these grievances depends on putting forward exact solutions, they are likely to remain mute. And this seems to be a definite way of further entrenching the status-quo, no matter how wrong/unjust it clearly seems to be.

Thoughts on the Movement

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The Occupy movement seems to be a valid, non-violent way of getting people to exchange ideas about the current state of affairs. It encourages people to talk about the present economy, about politics, and about possibilities for change if such is required. Such interchange of thoughts and ideas may be on the realm of views at present, but hopefully, some more tangible action may result eventually. If we view the movement from this perspective, it seems to be gaining some solid ground.

One other interesting facet of the Occupy movement is the absence of leaders. The movement seems to be galvanized by sheer force of social media. People on the internet help to spread the word, even if they are not physically present in the quiet demonstrations. There is no vital hierarchy of leaders and almost anybody who shares the same sentiments is allowed into the so-called “tent.”

One other effect of social media is that people from other countries tend to sympathize with people of other nations and their situation in a show of unity and team spirit. Issues affecting people of one nation become real to people overseas as well.

Detractors of the protest movement say that these protests “encroach on other people’s rights.” Some people raise their brows on this statement, though, questioning how much harm a handful of people camping out on a square that has seen better days can inflict on others. Even the complaints of violence by council members were countered by the general observation that there was no violence at all until the police descended on the group and drew force on them. Many individuals fail to see the violence in disobeying a call to leave the premises; this is what is referred to as civil disobedience, a phenomenon accepted by and large as part of history. As to the comments that the protesters have had their week-long chance to air their views, sympathizers comment that the right to assemble and to speak freely has no set schedules.

Many people seem to think that politicians are better off listening to what protesters have to say.

THIS IS EXACTLY RIGHT!!!

They may be more edified and enlightened by this action compared with the endless and dreary debates that go on and on in the parliament – taking more than the week given to the protesters.

According to its members, the Occupy movement allows people to give vent to their feelings. It gives them a venue for expressing their discontent. It allows them the option of sharing their thoughts with other people, and the possibility of coming across solutions which might work. All they ask for is the freedom to their voice, and a little space to converge in.

Monday, 12th November, 2012 – Calls for an independent inquiry in Occupy eviction gather momentum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Calls for an independent inquiry in Occupy eviction gather momentum

Two of Victoria’s leading human rights and justice organisations today endorsed calls made by the Occupy Melbourne Legal Support Team for an independent inquiry into the Occupy Melbourne eviction. The calls came on the back of the Support Team winning the prestigious Tim McCoy Award on Friday night, an annual Victorian award recognising outstanding achievement in human rights and social justice.
Liberty Victoria and the Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres today welcomed the release of the Occupy Policing report and backed its call for an independent inquiry into the eviction of Occupy Melbourne protesters from City Square on 21 October 2011.
The President of Liberty Victoria, Professor Spencer Zifcak, welcomed the release of the Occupy Melbourne Report. ‘This is a well researched and cogently argued report that raises serious questions regarding the dispersal of the Occupy Melbourne protest in 2011’, he said. ‘The Occupy Melbourne protest was shut down by Council authorities more quickly than any other similar protest in any other city in any western democratic nation. In itself that is a source of very considerable concern.’
‘More than that, however, the information and evidence collected in the report suggests that the rights of demonstrators to freedom of speech and assembly may have been violated. These rights are protected by the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and they are set down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international human rights treaty to which Australia is a signatory. In other words, both Melbourne City Council and Victoria police may have acted illegally and in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations. Because of this, Liberty Victoria favours the immediate creation of an independent inquiry to examine all the circumstances in which the protest was terminated’.
Federation of Community Legal Centres Executive Officer Hugh de Kretser said the report highlighted serious questions around the legality of decisions to break the protest up and provided strong evidence of unreasonable use of force by police. “This is an important report which underscores the need for an independent inquiry into the eviction. There are many examples where evidence of excessive police force, including capsicum spray, has been documented. More broadly, the report demonstrates the important role played by independent observers at protest events.”
A copy of the Report has been provided to the Office of Police Integrity, the Honorable Peter Ryan, Minister for Police, Melbourne City Council and the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. To date, none of these individuals or organizations have acknowledged receipt of or committed to investigating the contents and findings of the Report.

For media inquiries, call: Sara Dehm (0431 273 244) or Erin Buckley (0448 323 060), Report Coordinators and members of the Occupy Melbourne Legal Support Team