The 30A Mobilisation of Dissent
Chapter 7 - Concluding Review


So what was achieved?

We were few but we created big presence. We might not have rallied a host of protesters but we did rally a host of police. And if smoke surely signals the presence of fire, a clearly proclaimed peaceful protest that causes the State to muster such a smother of police surely signals doubt and political unease.

We rained a torrent of bad press upon Steve Forbes, his CEO mates and his local political courtiers and the Sydney Forbes Global CEO Conference, as a neo-con public relations exercise, finished in tatters.

Here is the comment by Helen Trinca, published in the Australian Financial Review of 1 September 2005

Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes Magazine, told chief executive officers yesterday that they must build the "moral foundation" of capitalism or lose the argument to anti-globalisation protesters.

"If our generation fails to do this, the generation outside will win the argument... We are the generation and it is our turn to defend [it]," he told 350 bosses gathered for the Forbes Global CEO Conference.

The problem for capitalism is that it's hard to mount a defence when its leading practitioners are so afraid for their personal safety that they have to keep not just protesters, but the press and people at bay.

If Karlgaard is right and the system is under threat from anti-globalists, the Forbes conference is providing astonishing images of the yawning gap between its leaders and the rest.

His call to arms was relayed to media yesterday via a couple of TV screens in a side room of the Sydney Opera House. Reporters were kept well away from the forum and its participants, unable to see or interact with the audience or ask the speakers questions, although some were later hauled out for mini press conferences.

But the juice, the vibe, the interaction that forms part of every conference was missing. In its place was a sense of CEOs talking to each other, a performance rather than a dialogue.

Security measures included blocking the forecourt of the Opera House, and giant steel and concrete barriers along Macquarie Street to warn off protesters. Journalists and participants were shuttled the few hundred metres from gathering points at nearby hotels to the event.

It adds up to an extraordinary separation from the people, at a time when corporations are urged to sell their side to an audience concerned about bad business behaviour and the careless use of economic power.

The siege mentality was also apparent at the opening dinner Tuesday night. As guests dined upstairs, journalists crammed into a small space watching (via a screen) Prime Minister John Howard being interviewed by Forbes president Steve Forbes.

What was vaguely insulting was the sense that we were watching a set-piece exercise. No footage of the dinner, hosted by the federal government's Invest Australia agency, was broadcast, apart from one quick overview before formal speeches.

The explanation offered was that no one wanted to be caught sucking on a prawn. Poor protocol to subject one's guests to a candid camera experience; or was it more?

After all, footage of CEOs dining with protesters agitating outside could so easily have been used negatively for a conference that was already beginning to push the wrong buttons.

The need for security is accepted, but this exercise is sending a message not of a confident, integrated capitalism, but of one fearful of its constituents. It's a pity. The world's best and brightest have a lot of worthwhile things to say. They just seem to have forgotten that sometimes the medium is the message.

But we not only won the battle of ideas, we also had a good time doing it. We built confidence in our resistance to the corporate state and though 30A might not of turned out to be the carnival of liberation of massed samba bands and colourful flags as I had envisioned,t it had an infectious uplifting carnival feel anyway.

In short it was the movement building event that we intended it to be and me personally I made a lot of friends and gained insight into the state of urban activism.

Here is an extract from the debriefing Mutiny Bloc posted to the 30A Network after the event.

Report back on Forbes

As a group, we found Tuesday (30 August protest) pretty inspiring. We thought there was a really festive spirit and that the protest down to the opera house was exciting. Although the fences were there, it was incredible to see activists attacking the fences and bringing them down, despite the huge presence of police etc.

Some of the problems were the lack of information sharing, not knowing what to do at the fences blocking the Opera House, hanging around too long, dispersing in small groups and Nelson losing his glasses.

The Wednesday ANZ actions were empowering as well. One of the key points about these actions is that the goals planned were essentially achieved, that is, to disrupt business. It was really positive to be part of a group that planned the action and followed through with those earlier decisions on the day. In a small way it challenged police tactics and there is potential for these actions to be ongoing.

A problem with the action related to accessibility and becoming part of the planned actions, it was noted that some people found it difficult to find out information about the actions. As well, the reason why the actions were more successful is that a lot of the police on that day were following Reclaim the Streets. We considered that Reclaim the Streets may have been the guinea pigs enabling other actions to continue longer. This is something that needs to be addressed in the future.

Also, jail solidarity was really good throughout the couple of days, providing a lot of support to people who were arrested.

Mutiny is keen to continue actions focusing on ANZ and involving more groups and people. We are also keen to do more research and spread the campaign.

And of the police liaison effort it may be said that, for all my personal frustrations, the police for all their excess in numbers, were restrained in the exercise of their power. There were no mass arrests, no baton charges.

Joyful, artful and safe we made our dissent known.

Thank you Superintendent Bob Waites.

There are many others to thank too. See my blog of gratitude at www.peacebus.com/30A/Gratitude.html

Graeme Dunstan
Written an compiled September 2005

 

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