The last police liaison meeting prior to 30A, Graeme Dunstan with Det Snr Sgt Andrew Layhe and Det Sgt Leanne Wells, 29 August 2005
Beside the 30A Creative Workshop my other major commitment to the 30A organising was police liaison.
In the business of bearing witness, police are in my view in the front line. Many a Peacebus.com action and many a time have there been literally ranks of them standing before me. So I reckon, in the politics of protest they are intimately involved as players. So it has become my Peacebus.com practice to invest time and effort in police liaison as an integral part of protest preparations. In negotiating the occupation of public place, I uphold police liaison as a respectful, civilised and productive thing to do.
So right from the April beginning of my association with the 30A Network, I raised police liaison. For the first two meetings I attended it slipped so far down the agenda it didn't get discussed. But perseverance furthers and agreement was reached that I should be delegated to make contact with police earlier rather than later.
This happened in the context of a consensus decision-making process about the design of the first poster. The images and text of the poster not only signalled the mobilising issues. There was long debate about the slogans to imaged on the sails of the Opera House: "No War$", "No Forbes", "Workers Rights", "Drop the Debt" and so. The poster also signalled and prescribed the form and duration of the event.
We who gathered to organise 30A had no confidence that we would or could gather a revolutionary horde at the Opera House on 30 August. We each knew that the anti-corporate movement in Sydney and Australia generally was still demoralised by the electoral triumph of the Howard regime, despite all its defiant trampling of civil rights, its human rights abuses to refugees, and its war criminal lies. We cast about for issues and activist individual groups who might climb on board with us.
Right from the outset, everyone agreed calling for a shut it down blockade of Forbes as with the World Economic Forum in Melbourne 2000 was beyond the field of movement possibilities.
The steering socialists, Vince and Bruce, I learned in the course of the poster process, were decided on a march from Town Hal, that is we would assemble there and then march off through the afternoon traffic and see how close we could get to the CEOs. Now for non-Sydney folk, Town Hall is at the centre of the central business district, a major traffic crossroad, a shit of a place to get a vehicle into for an action at 5 pm, and a long way from the Opera House about 2.5 km.
To me this idea suggested poverty thinking, a small and easily contained event. I could see it being another socialist march, banners and red flags up front, shouted slogans, fists in the air and me at the back with a peace dove and wondering why.
I countered with the suggestion of positioning the protest as a carnival of liberation such as I had been cultivating (and am yet) in Byron Bay with the annual Independence from America Day celebration. See www.peacebus.com/FourthJuly/
Furthermore I suggested the event not just be aimed at 5 pm knock off city workers but go for the duration of the Forbes conference which went over 3 days: carnival by night, social forum by day.
I argued that the first poster say "converge on Circular Quay from 5pm 30 August" and, keeping our options open, we should go meet the police, assume legitimacy for the protest and ask for the Opera House forecourt as our place of assembly.
Peacebus.com policy: assume legitimacy and goodwill, be genuine, ask for the sky and see what part of heaven gets realised on the day. In entering negotiations for peace and justice, the approach must be openhearted and goodness, goodwill, tolerance and kindness assumed in the other. More than an opening gambit goodwill it is the Dharma, "do unto others " path, and the truly the only way forward.
Damien Lawson, a staffer with Senator Kerry Nettle, an organiser of the Legal Observers at the Melbourne s11, expressed the common ground of this policy debate by saying: "If we assemble and march from Town Hall we will have a small event. If ask for the Opera House forecourt we may have a big event. If the police deny us access to the Opera House as public place, we can use this as a media leverage."
So it was that I got delegated police liaison officer for 30A. I spelled out my police liaison position in a posting to the 30A email list on 13 May:
"For all my anarchist and utopian idealism I cannot imagination a world without some agency of law enforcement: police is community, community is police. The movement towards peace and social justice will truly become deep and swift when police are moving alongside us as friends and fellow citizens mutually vigilant and responsive to the needs of public safety and justice.
I want the 30A mobilisation to be movement building, joyful, artful and safe for all - protesters, conference attendees, police and passers by.
I want the police to not only respect our right of assembly but to enjoy giving it their blessing and protection."
I used the same email list to report on progress of the police liaison and these reports, along with other postings made my me during the lead up to 30A are posted at www.peacebus.com/30A/Postings.html
In March and with 30A police liaison on my mind, I attended a Sydney Institute of Criminology seminar themed around the Macquarie Fields riots that had dominated the news that month. My friend, Brenton Banfield, Mayor of Campbelltown was speaking, and so too Superintendent Dave Darcy whom I met in the course of Sydney 2000 HEMP Olympics. See http://www.peacebus.com/freedomride/ olympix.html
Dave Darcy was there to speak on community policing. At the time of the Sydney 2000 Olympics he had been the negotiator for major protests including the Reclaim the Streets actions in Newtown. He had also been Local Area Commander for the Kings Cross and taken the opportunity to test his community policing theories with considerable success in terms of crime reduction and morale enhancement. Now he was out of favour in the "enforcement policing" regime, cooling his heels, on Sabbatical, and writing a postgraduate thesis based on his experiences.
Journalist Quentin Dempster, who was also on the panel, hailed Dave's presentation, saying he ought to be Police Commissioner, but under the existing ALP regime he never would be.
Dave was wearing a smart business suit and accompanied by his teenage daughter. As soon as I was politely able I introduced myself and asked him whom to see. He told me that as far as he knew there was no one doing the job he had done negotiating protests and recommended as a starting point I speak to Superintendent Phil Rogerson, Local Area Commander of The Rocks, the precinct which includes the Opera House, The Quay and the NSW Parliament. "A good man", said Dave.
So I set up a meeting and journeyed into the heart of Sydney, parked Happy Wheels and Jennifer on Observatory Hill, and walked through The Rocks tourism precinct to the old police station. The report of the meeting posted to the 30A list. See www.peacebus.com/30A/Postings.html
Phil Rogerson received me respectfully and expressed his gratitude for the early lead-time. His precinct manages 300 public place protests a year so the business was not new to him. In my presence he phoned the Opera House security and discovered that Premiers Department had already told them of our expected protest and that police would be responsible for security decisions. He did not reject the Opera House forecourt proposition out of hand, nor confirm it but rather asked that a Schedule One, Notice of Intent to Assemble and/or March form be completed. He promised to get his Crime Manager onto the case.
I left the meeting feeling optimistic and talked up that optimism to the 30A Network. Knowing that I would be away in Byron organising for the 2005 Independence from America Day celebration (see www.peacebus.com/FourthJuly/ ) Damien Lawson agreed to be a fellow police liaison delegate and together we went to The Rocks Police station and met the Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Darren Boyd Skinner.
Darren was a snappily uniformed officer who led us from the front desk, through a storeroom, up stairs to his pokey office in which a huge computer monitor occupied two thirds of his desktop. We had sit to one side so that he could see us. We talked our proposal through and Darren could see no objection. Please submit the Schedule One form, he said. Damien agreed to do this and confirmed this at the 30A Network meeting later that night.
To move on the negotiations I set up one more meeting before I left Sydney for Byron, a meeting between police and Opera House security. I set this up through Darren and walked with him and two other uniformed senior constables from the precinct across the Quay to a meeting with Opera House Trust security manager Chris Allen on the forecourt.
The genial Chris Allen was waiting for us along with three men in suits. They were introduced but I didn't get all their names or positions, except for one who gave me his card, Sgt David Christie of Counter Terrorism Coordination Command. Bingo! Now we are getting noticed. I assumed the others were from Premiers Department.
Damien didn't show and I did the 30A song and dance routine alone, projecting my voice and dramatising to the curious circle of enforcers. The Premiers Dept men (?) bristled when I said that maybe our protest would be of the size and passion of the Melbourne 2000 World Economic Forum blockade an estimated 20,000 people over 3 days.
Except that it would NOT be a blockade. We wanted the CEOs to have their conference; we wanted them to also see and hear our dissent. I left them talking in the forecourt but, wise in hindsight, I know now that the first part of the message left them so agitated their minds that the second part never got heard.
While I was away from Sydney no one contacted me about police liaison and no email postings were made regarding it. Getting back to Sydney after 4 weeks I learned no one had lifted a finger on the matter, neither police nor protesters, and Damien had reneged on the agreement to fill in, sign and submit the Schedule One Form. A new father he had gone on paternity leave.
Darren was slow to return my calls and when he did, I discovered he had been on leave for four weeks too and had done nothing. Waiting for the form, he said. I rang Phil Rogerson and discovered he had been posted as Local Area Commander for Maroubra, and was off the case.
Meanwhile information came to us from Opera House employees and contractors that the Opera House was to be locked for the duration of Forbes, all performances cancelled, all franchise operations, cafes and the like, closed, no public access at all. We learned from a Daily Telegraph reporter that some 600 police were being rostered for Forbes security duty.
In other words three weeks out, no police talking to us, a major security operation was being planned, and we, the supposed cause of their insecurities, both ignored and surveilled.
I hurried to The Rocks police station, filled in the Schedule One by hand at the front desk, berated Darren for being slack, warned that a shit fight was now in the making, crossed the CBD to Senator Kerry Nettle's office, got on a phone and rang everyone I could think of, pestering telephonists and personal assistants with my urgency to get some 30A crowd management negotiation happening.
In Premiers Department I got through to a cynical minder of the newly arrived Premier. Ex Premier Bob Carr whose mug had for months appeared on the Forbes website as the host of the Sydney Forbes Global CEO Conference had, after setting the record for the longest serving NSW premier, resigned from office.
When he made the invitation for Forbes to come to Sydney, Carr had been the state leader of the rightest of right state branches of the Australian Labor Party. To back his invitation he committed $1.3 million from the NSW Treasury, and this was matched by $1.3 mill from the neo con courtier of highest public office in the land, Prime Minister John Howard..
Seems that Carr had been duchessed by Steve Forbes while on a visit to New York and, frothing beside him at the time he made the invitation, was rich and famous movie star, Nicole Kidman. Nicole offered to be co-host. Carr, I understand, had later been a speaker at a Global CEO Conference in Hong Kong.
Through the minder I was able to warn that his successor, Robin Iemma, had been set up for an embarrassment. Watching the changing weather on the Forbes website during this time Kirsten reported Bob Carr's face removed and that speaker and session details of the conference program were steadily being erased.
By chance she met the new Deputy Premier, head of the so-called left faction in the Cabinet, while 30A leafleting and spruiking at a Union family day picnic protest. He had listened to her spruik before he identified himself and revealed that he was attending the Conference as the Premiers stand in.
From an English magazine gossip piece, we learned that Nicole Kidman, filming in the UK, was feeling the sting of 30A Forbes criticism there and back pedalling on her commitment to attend and be at Bob Carr's side again. Maybe she would be there as a live telecast, she said.
Two weeks out and Forbes was looking shaky. But some fast-talking must have happened behind the scenes because next we learned that both Iemma and Carr would be fronting the Conference.
Bob Carr it seems was to celebrate his retirement by coming out of retirement to stand beside the new flunky and welcome Steve Forbes and the super rich to Sydney, handing over the Opera House and the Art Gallery of NSW for their personal pleasure.
In doing so Carr revealed the community base to which his political social life had led him. It was not some humble abode in a public housing estate or mortgage belt suburb in some far-flung and benighted blue ribbon Labor seat. Oh no! Bob Carr chose his retirement community amongst the corporate elite, the bosses that the ALP was formed to fight. His true colours revealed; a corporate courtier, no less sleazy than Howard.
During my afternoon on the Greens phone I also rang the office of the Metropolitan Area Command and got through to Superintendent Bob Waites. He had a rough, no-bullshit voice. I explained my mission and asked for a meeting with him. We were both in Surry Hills. Now? He said he couldn't then but agreed to meet me on the following Monday.
The meeting never happened because what intervened was police liaison.
The call that that set this up was the one made to Sgt Christie of the Counter Terrorism Coordination Unit. He was on his way to Canberra when he got my call. He remembered me at once and, although he was off the case, he called me back in the afternoon when he was back in Sydney, heard my troubles and told me he knew the officer who would be able to help me. Expect a call.
That was a Thursday 19 days out. Next day Senior Detective Andrew Layhe rang and introduced himself a negotiator, the second highest paid one in the state it seems, trained to parley in hostage crises and the like. He had fetched the 30A file, done some reading, spoken to Superintendent Waites and wanted a meeting.
"Speaking plainly, Graeme, you have been fucked around," he said by way of apology and explanation. "A lot of police officers just hold down jobs, look convincing and do nothing. I am not that kind of police officer." Lordy, lordy.
He pressed me for an early meeting and we met on the following a Sunday afternoon in Camperdown Park which is dog friendly an important consideration for me and my companions Miffy and Jennifer who were also attending. They have a good nose for peacemakers. Peace sniffer dogs.
The park is a precious patch of green hemmed in by Victorian era working class terrace houses and the St Stephens Anglican Church cemetery wall, the old sandstone of which is a blaze of graffitti, radical slogans and tags. The activists circles of Newtown also hang out there on sunny days in lengthening shadows of the afternoon, sitting on the grass, sharing food, beer and the odd joint, rapping and drumming and bogeying.
When the dogs and I arrived, mirroring the unity and division of the 30A organising structure, there were two distinct circles but lot of coming and going interchange between them. One was Mutiny Bloc with about 20 young people, its presence marked with a yellow windsock. Close beside but separate, were the 30A Network stalwarts, Kirsten, Bruce, Simon the Fireman, K, and others.
I had gone to meet police liaison at the roadside, and as we approached together across the grass together in golden western sun, I watched as people who were interested in the news of police liaison but did want to engage its face, scatter like exposed slater bugs from the 30A circle.
It is a negotiators first job to build trust and Det Snr Sgt Andrew Layhe, in white shirt, tie and slacks, and Det Sgt Leanne Wells, in skirt, stockings and sensible heels, demonstrated mastery by coming to us and sitting on the Earth, on our home turf as it were. Jennifer and Miffy approved and settled, laying on the grass on either side of the circle, dignified and at ease.
The police officers listened respectfully to our case for occupying the Opera House forecourt.
"Build as big and as strong a fence as you want," said Bruce. "We have no intention of breaching it. Give us the forecourt and we will organise a peaceful non confronting protest."
"Carnival by night; social forum by day. Bearing peaceful witness to be seen and heard by the CEOs. No harm intended."
Kirsten Cameron was even willing to volunteer the services of some mates, members of the CFMEU, the major construction union, to build this fence! Anything if it would assure the police and CEOs of their safety.
We also advocated the forecourt as an assembly area because where else near at hand might we assemble without snarling traffic? Why should the hiring of the Opera House for corporate conferencing become a traffic problem for the rest of the CBD commuters? Let the Opera House Trust take responsibility for the CEO conference and its inevitable counter conference.
After they had listened Andrew paraphrased and fedback on what he had heard. He demonstrated that he was a good listener. I noticed he was not only listening, he was also watching intently. Andrew's respectful demeanour reflected badly on some of my comrades who to my ear seemed to be speaking down to the police officers as if dull wittedness was a necessary job qualification for policing.
We asked as a next step that there be some kind of stakeholders meeting for managing a crowd in the Quay area and since police would have the ultimate responsibility for crowd safety, this should be convened by the police. Andrew agreed to convey our request to Bob Waites.
Andrew revealed that he was soon become a father again, his partner near to labour. We wished him happy birthing, celebrated the parallels with the new fatherhood of our friend Damien and urged paternity leave upon Andrew too.
Andrew's new son was born the night after our Camperdown Park meeting and such was Andrew's commitment to policed liaison that he chose to balance his time between post natal needs of a new mother and babe, and the pre natal needs of 30A.
By working the phones hot he set the stakeholders meeting for the following Tuesday 16 September (14 days out) at Police HQ Surry Hills. Not easy to get senior bureaucrats together at short notice, but Andrew's charm and Bob Waites authority he assembled representatives from Premiers Department (two of them), The Harbour Foreshore Authority, the Opera house Trust and the Sydney City Council.
So eager was Andrew about the stakeholders meeting, and so difficult is it to find parking near police HQ that he offered to come collect us. I was coming in from Wedderburn and late, but he picked Kirsten and Simon up from STUCCO and drove them to Sydney Police HQ along the way revealing that he had worked for a long time as an undercover in the Sydney gay scene, allegedly to track ecstasy supply. He said he had participated in a number of Mardi Grass parades.
What a character! Along the way there were many calls and text messages between Andrew and I and I was soon enjoying his repartee.
At the stakeholders meeting Kirsten gave a 30A presentation to a group of middle managers, who collectively had managed many a large event in The Rocks precinct. They were respectful and not unsympathetic to our cause. Indeed John Trevillian, the Major Events man of Premiers Department and father of the revitalised Australian Day celebrations in NSW, remembered me: "You are famous, Graeme for your celebratory art and soft approach to crowd management."
But, he went on to explain, they as public servants could only advise, the political masters would make the decision. But everyone agreed that when it came down to public safety, the police had final say and final responsibility. The meeting broke up with the bureaucrats agreeing to report back to their masters and then coordinate a response through Andrew.
In fact Bob Waites had already made up his mind. Andrew told us that he was assuring the Assistant Commissioner of the good intentions of the 30A Network. Indeed Andrew said he had searched my file, read deep in the cyber annals of Peacebus.com and showed police videos of past Peacebus.com actions to demonstrate my peaceful activist record.
Through Andrew we understood that the prevailing police wisdom was that while they maybe assured of the peaceful intentions of the 30A Network, the police had "Intell" to say that fringe elements with more covert intent were coming to the Forbes protest and that they MAY use our crowd as an opportunity for what? A suicide bombing? Get real.
Here was the War on Terror raising its ugly head and I refused to bow before its fashionable fearfulness. The idea that we peaceniks might be a magnet for terrorists was far fetched. A more likely target would be the gathering of war profiteering CEOs; in which case the presumed threat was a good reason for telling Forbes to stay away from the Opera House and Sydney generally.
Two days went by before Andrew confirmed the response from the bureaucrats and the Metropolitan Regional Police Commander. As was Andrew's way, he had rung and set up a meeting with us before he entered the meeting with his boss. He liked to deliver his news fresh and personal.
It became our pattern to have our police liaison meetings in a cafe called Urban Bites in King Street, just up the hill from STUCCO. Andrew began this one over coffee but he struggled to find words and begun with an odd apology: "If my words are blunt it is because Mr Waites is a plain spoken man." Although the eloquent Andrew used no blunt words, I got the idea that Bob Waites had dismissed our plea for peace, and told Andrew to tell us to get fucked.
The response Assistant Commissioner Superintendent Bob Waites had chosen the "enforcement model" or zero tolerance policing which assumes the common people are the enemy and that protest equals public disorder and requires a massive police response.
The Opera House, Andrew informed us, would be closed to all, and the Botanic Gardens too, for the duration of the Forbes Global CEO Conference. "Not even a team of junior league kids coming for an excursion to get their picture taken in front of the Opera House will get near," said Andrew.
"We need to meet with Waites and speak to him directly," I said.
"Such a meeting is unlikely," Andrew replied.
"Where will the 30A protest assemble," I asked next.
"The police do not know," replied Andrew somewhat apologetically. "You are invited to suggest a place and submit the appropriate form."
My brain boiled at this. Just 10 days out from the event and the police are asking for forms. Angrily I told Andrew and Leanne they were wasting our time and staged a walk out with Kirsten and Simon at my side, the latter telling me that my anger and the walk out was totally appropriate.
"Call me when you have someone we can talk sense with," I called to Andrew as we left.
Remorse for my dramatic flare-up soon set in, and leaving the café I paid not only for my coffee but Andrew's and Leanne's too. Andrew would later laugh about this and rib me about my mixed messages.
Back at STUCCO Simon, Kirsten, myself and Bruce, who arriving late had missed the walk out, sat down to consider our options. All optimism for large and peace rally on the forecourt was now dead. Police were planning for a confrontation and we had no safe place to assemble.
To promote our event we had to up the ante, rise with challenge, assert our right to free assembly and warn of the possibility of a police riot.
The cost we knew was that the middle ground appeal of our carnival protest was now denied to us. We knew that the unions, which we had been wooing, would go to ground.
Plan B required us to call for courage in a time of mass media induced fear. See my posting to the 30A network on this subject at http://www.peacebus.com/30A/Postings.html
There were many who had no faith in the police liaison from the start and now they told me so.
Interesting was the response from young K., a student of radical social theory. Semio-technique is how he explained it. For the corporate police state, protest is an opportunity to send TV messages of power relationships. The message they want to sink in the mass unconsciousness of TV land is that we, the people, are the controlled, and they, the bosses and the enforcers, are the controllers.
This sums up the methodology of enforcement or zero tolerance policing: police at war with their communities. Appropriately enough Rudi Giuliani, the pioneering New York mayor of this kind of policing and now a contender for the next Republican Party presidency nominee, was a keynote speaker at Forbes. Interviewed before leaving Sydney he said he was pleased with the massive police security presence about the Forbes Conference and "that he felt well protected".
As fate would have it, soon after Forbes the fallout of Hurricane Katrina grabbed the media headlines and demonstrated the consequences of enforcement policing. After Katrina had inundated New Orleans, a horrified world watched as local police demonstrated that the only response they knew to large scale citizen emergency was to draw guns, shoot and disperse crowds. See an eye-witness account http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/556/556_04_RealHeroes.shtml
An emergency meeting of 30A Network took place in Camperdown Park Newtown on Sunday evening 21 August, assembling first in the pub across the road and then sitting in circle on the grass under a park light with beers. About 12 of us hardcore and experienced protest organisers. Talk about a conspiracy!
We agreed that standing up for the citizen rights to free speech and free assembly was core to the work of preparing for any protest and that we would proceed with promoting A30 as a convergence in Circular Quay from 5 pm 30 August and undertake two publicity actions, the first at Police HQ on Tuesday 11 am, and the second on the forecourt of the Opera House on Wednesday 2 pm.
Mobile telephone rapport was soon resumed with Andrew who facilitated both these actions. "Forgive the passion" I had texted. "Passion is understandable", responded Andrew.
When I explained that I had been inspired by the example of Gandhi to go to the door of Police HQ and asked for a meeting with the Chief, Bob Waites. Andrew responded saying that response was understandable too and he gave me the name of the Chief of Staff whom I faxed to give written notice of our intention.
In the fax I told Chief of Staff to expect no more than 20 people (in the event there were eight protesters and two dogs), flags, banners and media and that our action would be of short duration and would include an approach to the front door. I assured him we would peaceful, non confrontational, no attempts would be made at forced entry or blockading.
When we arrived Andrew was there in white shirt and tie and he acted as our host, introduced me to the senior officers on guard and generally calmed and assured the other police as we set up. Afterwards he came and congratulated us for being the first ever protest outside Sydney Police HQ. See story at http://www.peacebus.com/30A/ PoliceHQ.html
At the Opera House action the next day, he was there with the new Area Commander for The Rocks. We had not sought permission from the Opera House Trust for our action and we were aware that Olympic legislation had given it harsh trespass powers including the power to hand out $2,000 on the spot fines.
We planned our action to be quick one with a quick set up While Bruce and Kirsten had gone ahead to meet the media crews in the Opera House forecourt, John Peace and I had prepared four flags and the A30 banner bundled them and carried them on our shoulders down the steps and onto the forecourt in from the rear of Government House, thereby by passing the security man at the main entry point.
Andrew grinned as our little procession arrived.
There only five of us, one to hold each pole plus Bruce the interviewee. We unfurled and set up in less that a minute, holding the bamboo flag poles with the Eureka A banners with the A30 banner between them. With the Opera House shell behind us, we were an illuminated backdrop for Bruce and the TV news camera crews from ABC and SBS in front of us.
When the cameras had finished I called to Andrew: "Hey Andrew, I want a piss. Can you hold this pole for me." He laughed and called back: "I comfortable where I am thank you very much."
No other police or Opera House security came near us or challenged us in anyway. Andre had seen to that.
When the poles were packed up I went to where Andrew stood and he introduced me to the Superintendent Waldron. "I thought it would be good if you two met," he said.
"While we are here we should talk about possible assembly places for the A30 protest," said Andrew.
Seems that our Police HQ on the previous day and its massive media interest had upped Andrew's credibility within the organisation and now it was possible to negotiate. In earlier meetings I had seen Andrew shake his head in despair and say things like: "I sit and listen to these highly paid senior officers, and think if my teenage son had uttered such lack of logic and stupidity, I would reprimand him."
Andrew was being more than a message bearer; within the Police HQ he was our advocate assuring senior officers and Premiers Department flakies that we were no threat. He told us he was urging that the 30A Network be allowed to get on with its organising and if "Intell" had information about people coming to A30 who might represent a threat to public order and safety, then the police ought to deal with them separately.
The problem seemed to be a lot of men in comfortable jobs and with big salaries; a lot of manoeuvring to hold comfortable jobs and win promotions; no-one wanting to risk their arse by making a decision; everyone conjecturing worst case scenarios and paralysing themselves with fear of recrimination. Only excess security could be enough.
So we are six days out and when it was agreed that Customs House Square was the next best alternative to the Opera House forecourt as a place to assemble for Tuesday convergence at 5 pm.
"What about Wednesday and Thursday?" Andrew asked.
We had always said a three-day event but I hadn't been thinking much about the followings days and neither had anyone else in the A30 Network. Our planning meetings never seemed to get beyond the speakers list for the Tuesday evening, speakers being a particular obsession of my socialist comrades in their battle of ideas.
"What we need is a place where we can safely assemble and be seen and heard by the CEOs," I said airily and, looking about, the only patch of green that presented itself from the perspective of the Opera House forecourt where we stood was Hickson Park across the waters of Sydney Cove and under the southern pylon of the Harbour Bridge. "Maybe there," I pointed.
We agreed that I would put the idea to my comrades and Andrew would talk to the government authorities. Lead balloon; none of my comrades saw any possibility in the idea. Maybe if we had 8 weeks to prepare, a giant PA that could pitch sound across the cove and the wherewithal to hang signage half the height of the Pylon (huge!), otherwise we would be insignificant and marginalised in Hickson Park.
But Andrew followed through with his commitment and, contacting the relevant authorities, he won us permission to be there, subject to someone making a formal but fast tracked application. He told me this had involved sitting patiently through a 4-hour meeting with middle management bureaucrats in which the discussion went round and round and round. No thank you, Andrew. Sorry for wasting your time.
Reality check! Six days out and the 30A Network did not have the capacity to organise any protest action to follow up Tuesday evening. We were paper thin as an organisation, a one night wonder.
But what else to expect when a safe assembly area goes unsecured till six days out? It was an event promoter's nightmare. How can one book and publicise entertainers, or engage the participation of other organisations?
Far from expecting the 20,000 over three days of the Melbourne 2000 World Economic Forum as alluded to in the opening of police liaison, my guess at that time was that we would be lucky to get 2000. Our pre Police HQ media had not got out much beyond Newtown and the union support had fizzled and so had the promise of carnival.
Truth was that while the police were still planning big, our 30A expectations were shrinking as the media attention grew.
But our organising frustrations with the police weren't over. There were obstacles yet to be created for our occupation of Customs House Square.
First let me explain about poles and protests.
The reason that most protests have much the same ad hoc look of the hand held, hand drawn placards is that most protest organisers don't think visually or spend much time and effort in preparing visuals. Typically a banner will be painted in the afternoon before, acrylic paint on white calico and a placard drawn with felt pen on white cartridge paper an hour before.
This appears to be a deeply embedded protest folk tradition and, while the messages change, the style and the method repeat.
A mission of Peacebus.com is to make occupations of public space artful with lots of flags, lanterns even, and beautiful banners. For this I have 4.2 metres bamboo poles and I can carry 50 on the roof racks of Happy Wheels. They can make a big impression by dressing the space, giving the celebratory space height, colour and dimension, and by illuminating the symbolic meaning of the occasion. For an example see http://www.peacebus.com/FourthJuly/DawsonPix2005.html
With Andrew I had many conversations about poles and how important they were to Peacebs.com art. Poles, precious poles, hand harvested in northern NSW and transported hundreds of kilometres. Over my dead body would I let my poles be used as a weapon against police or anyone.
But not only had we talked about it, we had also had a couple of trial runs with pole safety; the first being the Sydney Police HQ action on the Tuesday 23 August, the second being the student rally against voluntary student unionism on Thursday 25.
For the latter I put out flags on poles at the rallying point on Sydney and UTS campuses and, thanks to Andrew's intervention Happy Wheels with its "Detach from Tyranny, End the US Alliance" signage was part of a three police car escort following the parade through the city to the Liberal Party HQ in Williams Street.
No one attempted to use the bamboo poles as a weapon and Andrew was able to assure his colleagues and tell me that their use in Customs House Square was okay.
We 30A Network organisers also wanted a PA and we had the use of the provisional us of the CFMEU light truck stage and PA. I also wanted Happy Wheels in there with its PA. For a couple of days we were assured this would be okay too.
Then Superintendent Bob Waites came back in on duty probably feeling a bit peeved that his ski holiday had been interrupted by such bad media. Whatever, he plugged in as Metropolitan Regional Commander and overturned these agreements.
On Friday 26 August, four days out, we learned that under the threat of having them towed away and impounded, no vehicles what so ever would be permitted in the protest. And no stage truck even if its wheels were clamped.
Bob Waites would not be budged on this one. Seems he had a traumatic experience with PA in a locked van during the Vietnam War protests when he was a young constable and he had never gotten over it.
And no stage either! What had the erecting of a temporary stage in a public place got to do with the safety of public, protestors and the Forbes CEOs who would gathered at the Opera House, or so we understood, over a kilometre away? It was just plain obstruction, bastardry coming down from on high.
By this time I was in despair of the police liaison process. It had taken a lot of time, divided our ranks and created obstacles for the production of our 30A rally. I had taken lead role in the advocacy of police liaison and had hit walls of frustration, and felt my credibility to be in tatters.
Andrew and Leanne were my witness went I cried out my helplessness. "What kind of role model am I for youg protestors, what kind of honourable elder, have I become? Just another blow hard and foolish old man. Don't expect any effective crowd marshalling from me. Forget radios. I am now looking naive and ridiculous. Whose going to listen to me?" was how I expostulated on hearing the latest bad news.
Andrew and I were getting good at sharing our frustrations and he comforted me saying: "Hey, it was you and your talking up efforts that has got that the 30A Forbes protest so much notice by police, government and media over the past two weeks."
True. It was the police liaison work that had got 30A so much attention. But the frustrations of it together with the physical fatigue of the 30A Creative Workshop evoked the grumpy old man in me. Friends who saw my TV interviews suggested I smile more!
At 7.30 am on the morning of 30 August the high rating Channel Nine Today Show interviewed me in a park across the road from STUCCO. For me this had involved a 5.30 am start and some effort to set up of flags. On air first up I said that in terms of planning for a peaceful protest, let me recommend the early retirement of Assistant Commissioner Superintendent Bob Waites for we had had nothing but obstruction and frustration from him.
It was putting the boot into a man already battered by the media. Andrew had had his frustrations too but he urged upon me the bigger picture that in his position as Metropolitan Regional Commander in charge of the Forbes CEO Conference security, Bob Waites was the most politically pressured police officer in the service at that time. After all the Prime Minister, the Premier and ex-Premier were backing the Forbes CEO Conference and Bob Waites did not have much room to manoeuvre.
There is reason to suppose that the US Alliance was also bearing down on Bob.
On the day of Opera House action I had gotten into a chance conversation with an employee of Government House and he informed me that on the preceding weekend Government House had been taken over by a conference that involved some 200 Yankees and high ranking Australian subordinates including a visit from the Prime Minister. The conference he said had been conducted with maximum security which not only excluded the staff, it excluded unauthorised use of the air space above too.
One can only surmise that if it did have something to do with extracting more Australian military engagement in US imperialist wars, it might have had something to do with assurances of security for the Republican Party hotshots attending the Forbes CEO Conference just 9 days away.
In truth, for all the frustrations I had no regrets about my engagement with police officers Andrew Layhe and Leanne Wells, in particular Andrew who did most of the talking. He was ever respectful, circumspect and amusing. He had read my police file and Peacebus.com reports as well and he knew more than any of my 30A comrades of my aspirations and my quirks. He was a skilled and intelligent listener and, better than any priest or paid counsellor might be able, he listened and reminded me of my Peacebus mission.
There was heart in the relationship and good humour too. Andrew the new father let me know he was touched when he read the Peacebus.com blog of the time, which mentioned him, his new son and my new grandson of 12 months and dedicated the fruit of our police liaison efforts to the benefit of future generations. See www.peacebus.com/ index050904.html
When "French" Sam Bernard, my HEMP Embassy friend arrived in Sydney in 30A solidarity I introduced him to Andrew. Sam is the proprietor of the Hemp Bar, which is the last operational cannabis café in NSW. Sam prides himself as a spotter of undercover cops and he recognised Andrew at once as an uncover who had hung out in the Hemp Bar. In affirmation Andrew grinned a boyish grin and I could only laugh remembering my hours in the Hemp Bar.
But naturally I was pissed off when Happy Wheels bounced into Customs House Square on Tuesday 30 August to unload 50 poles as agreed only to find the goal posts moved again, the presence of Happy Wheels contested and the use of the poles denied. But Andrew was genuinely pissed off with his police colleagues too.
This is where our story began. See http://www.peacebus.com/30A/30Aaction.html