The Rockhampton Unravelling of the Terror War

A Report of the Independence from America Day celebration
at the gates of Western Barracks,
Rockhampton, Queensland, 4 July 2013

When Peacebus arrived at the gates of Western Barracks, Rockhampton, a police squad car waiting for us and the sentries were already turning away transports, redirecting them to an alternative gate.

We were expected; it had all been negotiated. The cops had been sent the media release and had in turn notified the military.

In case we were tempted to jump the cyclone wire fence, a section of reservists lined up on the other side of the wire in a half hearted cordon. They were on duty in this usually unoccupied piece of Army real estate because it was being set up as a supply base for the massive Talisman Sabre 2013 US - Oz war rehearsals which started in 11 days time.

It was 4 July and we were there to celebrate Independence from America Day with a public Speak Out on the toxic nature of the US-Australia military alliance.

My Peacebus companion, Greg Rolles, is an ADFA dropout from the 90s, and me a Duntroon dropout from the 70s. Greg was sporting his Stand Fast Tshirt, and me my Indiana Jones brown felt hat. With a general interest in things army, we attempted to engage the reservists in conversation, but an NCO soon called them away.

More cops arrived and with them our police liaison, Snr Sgt Kerrie Duffy, the smoother of ways. Also the Officer in Charge of Rockhampton Police Station, Snr Sgt Mel Adams. We chatted as i rigged. Mel was interested in what was planned for the Talisman Sabre Military Open Day at the showgrounds 14 July.

That morning, Rockhampton's daily newspaper, the Bulletin (Rural Press), had run PR stories about the Open Day and also the start up of Talisman Sabre Exercises. On the same page was a photo of me saying i was organising the inaugural Bryan Law Memorial Tricycles Races.

The idea, Mel confessed, had tickled her fancy. Mel's the kind of gal i fancy tickling. We arranged to meet and talk more.

A few Rocky friends turned up early to help with the rigging including the local Capricornia Greens candidate and long time home dad, Paul Bambrick, and his art teacher partner, Edwina Mullany.

I set them to work staple tacking new signage over the existing Peacebus mural. This was an OfficeWorks plan-printed, black and white, 280 cm x 80 cm. It had been designed by the amazing Mr Somerset Bean who offers free design services to activists via Twitter.

I have yet to meet Somerset and i am unsure if he has an earthly form or earthly abode other than cyberspace. But for my preparations for resistance and counter propaganda to Talisman Sabre, he has been a graphic design angel for me. Good design, free, fuss free and on time!

"Cut the ties of those that snoop", the unrolled boldly revealed. It depicted Uncle Sam as a wrathful demon in a stars-and strips top hat plus earphones.

Once tacked over, i gave Edwina and Paul brushes some red and blue acrylic paint to spot colour those stars and stripes.

Edwina Mullany and Paul Bambrick

"Don't let this paint get on my shirt," grumbled Paul. It was his only collared shirt, his campaign shirt. Paul, more forest gnome than politician, only recently conceded to campaign in shoes.

The media began arriving as they painted. It was a lovely shot.

Four days before Paul and Edwina had returned from a family camper van holiday in NZ and i had been house sitting for them. Greens electoral campaigning had been far from their mind. On 2 July i suggested he speak out at the Independence from America Dayabout PRISM and the plight of whistle blower, Edward Snowden.

I offered to draft a media release for him, promised him it would attract the attention of all the regional media and so kick start his campaign. Paul dragged himself back into the news sphere, boned up on Snowden leaks and prepared his speech.

The media release went out on the 3 July and the media calls started coming at once.

Outside Western Barracks he stood erect and confident at the focus of a circle of microphones and cameras. From their smiles one could see the young, bright eyed media people loved and admired him. Me too. And i was flushed with pleasure in having been able to help my friend this way.

When the media had got what they wanted from Paul, i cranked up the Peacebus PA. "Happy Independence from America Day," i boomed with one speaker pointing towards the residences opposite the other into the barracks.

At the mike, we took turns being loud, speaking to no one in particular and everyone. In front houses and parked cars, a solitary Aboriginal woman hanging over her gate anne curious but not much else in the way of signs of life in the suburbs. The ten or so cops cops listened but pretended not. The Army made sure it minimised ears anywhere near Peacebus.

Candidate for Capricornia, Paul Bambrick, spruiks

Peacebus companion, Greg Rolles, spruiks

But we who had dared to be visible and vocal were watching each other. Just six of us. We listened and applauded. Excellent speeches, street oratory of the old style. And the media was watching the spectacle, admiring our moral force and our audacity.

The event didn't pretend to be about crowds and numbers. Rather it was about truth fearlessly spoken and artfully framed. It was about being noticed. Not a crowd event; rather a graphic event.

A pride of place in the colour of flags and the drama of slogans was Somerset's snooping Uncle Sam. Cameras loved it most of all.

Our Independence from America Day celebration over in an hour. No fire works or street bands, but every one feeling good about it. What an extraordinary display of goodwill it had been from both cops and media.

This is how the Terror War unravels, this is how peace returns; not with a bang, but with smiles and generosity of spirit in public place.

Since Talisman Sabre 2005 peace activists have been protesting it. Now the cultural shift away from endless war and militarism to peace in palpable Rockahampton and Central Queensland.

In my heart I know for certain that the fulcrum about which this change has turned is Bryan Law and his ploughsharing of the Tiger attack helicopter during the 2011 Talisman Sabre. The late Bryan Law, i must add, because the mourning of his death also vastly inspired people.

For peace he had, like Jesus, been willing to take on the suffering of the world, to be fearless and vulnerable, and to live his life ever ready to sacrifice it, ever ready to make peace sacred.

Big changes have followed and we follow after, enjoying the fruits of his labours and walking in the light of his inspiration.

Graeme Dunstan
5 July 2013

Rural press video report


Media for Independence from America Day 2013

Rockhampton Tiger Ploughshare Trial Events Page

Camp Peace Pilgrim FaceBook Events Page

Past Independence from America Day celebrations

Past campaigns of homepage

Doing best we can.
For peace! For justice! For the Earth!