Independence from America Day
in Byron Bay 4 July 2003


Acting locally to bear witness globally to the US tyranny

A more detailed report of the 2003 4th of July Independence from America Day celebration in Byron Bay, Australia, may be written.

Meanwhile following is the text of a thank you letter written 15 July 2003 for publishing in the Byron Echo. The images that follow are those of Jeff Dawson, photographer for the Byron Echo.

The open mike at the Byron courthouse drew forth some powerful oratory, poetry and rap. One such was Zach Williams, a young man from Oregon, USA. Click here for the text of his rap and the photos he took.

Michael McDonald

Editor, Byron Echo

Dear Michael,

Like a flag planted in an open field, the Independence from America Day celebration in Byron Bay last 4 July was beautiful to behold in itself and inspirational seen from afar.

About 250 people participated in the rally, parade and Speakout against the US tyranny, a colourful display of courage in the face of tyranny, art in the face of oppression.

There are many people I wish to acknowledge and thank.

Praise and gratitude to the speakers in Apex Park, John Allan, Kali Wendorf, Cr Richard Staples, Michael Balderstone, Rusty Harris, and Paul Recher, who reminded us of the common ground of our grief at the hijack of democracy by the super rich, at our nation's descent into war and concentration camp building, and at our loss of faith in government now dominated by big lies and mass deceits.

Our common ground as a free and independent people was also invoked and of our passion to remain as such: oceans of praise and gratitude for that.

Gratitude to all the performers and in particular to Robin Harrison for his rap, to the drummers and musicians who gathered around Veet for the parade through town and improvised such a happy and uplifting sound; and to the carnival dancers, Venuz, with her whirling rainbow ribbons, and Kusum, Nadja and Bodha in their flamboyant costumes and with their dynamic presence.

Gratitude for all the fiery orators who delivered outside the Byron courthouse and in particular to Gina Lakosta, for her whirling incantation "Rise up, rise up, " as the Bush effigy burned.

There are many behind the scenes folk to thank too. Gratitude to the Gondwana community at Tyagarah for their support and the gift of a refuge and a place to prepare, paint the banner and cut cardboard.

Gratitude for the encouragement and support given by the Byron Environment Centre folk.

Gratitude to the BAY-FM presenters who gave the Independence Day celebration context setting airtime and acknowledged it as local news. And to the locally owned and fiercely independent Byron Echo for giving space for pre-publicity and, in particular, gratitude to photographer, Jeff "walking backwards down Jonson Street" Dawson, for his thorough documentation of the event.

Gratitude to Inspector David Larkin, commander of the Tweed-Byron Area police, for his discrete and appropriate policing and his manifest respect for our freedoms of assembly and speech. No extra police were rostered to duty that day, nor were police ever visible at the event.

Gratitude too for the goodwill of Mayor Tom Wilson, to the ordinance officers of Byron Shire for being invisible and to park maintenance worker, Rick, for his advice about sprinkler systems.

Gratitude to Chamber Magistrate, Graeme Fleming, and all the staff at the Byron courthouse for their cooperation and goodwill. A traveller seeing the sea of relaxed and happy faces sitting about the courthouse lawns listening to the fiery oratory of Independence Day commented that it would have to be the most interesting courthouse in the land. It is. We have negotiated so many actions in the past two years to speak justice outside the courthouse that it seems like a family organising a picnic.

The event arose out of the Byron protests against the use of sniffer dogs (read: US Drug War policing) and in support of the resistance of Rusty Harris. This year, the third annual 4 July Independence from America Day celebration established itself as a stand-alone event and in style somehow very Byron.

Adverse reaction was minor and the many smiles, peace signs and thumbs ups greeting the parade from folk at the coffee bars and in passing cars suggested that for many, expectations of Byron as a creative, aware and politically active community were being vividly and satisfyingly fulfilled.

Many were the grey heads, old timers and long time activists. We speculated that maybe the event was a product of idle oldie misfits so bent by misspent youth that they now occupy public places playing with drums, flags and P.A.s rather than being quietly irrelevant playing chess, draught and card games.

Give me passionate display any day. May honourable eldership ever be satisfying to behold.

Graeme Dunstan


Click here for the Independence
from America
Day 2003

Click here for photos of Independence
from America
Day 2002

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