Michael Balderstone, Elspeth Jones and other hempsters waiting for Rudd with the Big Joint, Saturday 24 August 2009


Rudd flees Big Joint

a report on the day Prime Minister Rudd came to the Lismore Base Hospital to talk regional health policy and met the Big Joint
24 August 2009

A lazy hot Sunday afternoon in Nimbin village, Cullen Street listless, very few people moving, a magical movie set bathed in golden light.

But appearances can be deceiving; artful revolt was stirring. Michael Balderstone joined me at a table outside the Hemp Bar, joint in hand.

"Rudd is coming to Lismore," he told me. "To the Base Hospital tomorrow morning. Big Joint's gonna be there; just put out a media alert."

The phone rings, he is called away and returns to say it was AAP following up the alert. By 4.20 pm the story was on the wire to media outlets national and international. By the end of the day ABC Radio AM was setting up an interview for the next morning's show.

Michael asked Peacebus.com's help; how could i not help a friend of so many seasons?

From full tilt No Rally organising, I changed Peacebus.com's signage at once, then and there in the Cullen Street outside the HEMP Embassy. Off with "Stop the Rally!" and on with "End the Drug War!"

How deftly Peacebus.com leaps from campaign to campaign. All the one campaign i reckon. Bringing down corrupt and unresponsive government.

Rudd, we learned from the media, was expected at the Base 9.40 am. And by being there early the next morning I was able to park Peacebus directly outside of the Auditorium where Rudd was to speak and set up flags and banners.

Michael and the hempsters came later with the Big Joint, carrying it down the hill dressed up as Polite Force in blue coveralls and caps.

The Big Joint takes an hour to inflate and there had been the problem of finding a friendly power plug near the Hospital.

Problem solved when Michael asked Bundjalung magic man, Roy Gordon. Roy knew aunties in 10 different houses near the Base Hospital; power to the people, no worries.

Roy too came costumed as a Polite Force member and got up to some antics for the cameras, sniffing out a paddy wagon with a 2D sniffer dog; animating it to piss on the tyres only to be warned off by a real cop; bringing it water; having it poop.

The Big Joint and the Obama banner looked splendid and the flag array and crowd along Uralba Street gave the Hospital precinct a carnival feel.

Maybe thirty people turned out; Michael's media had also alerted other local dissident groups wanting to be noticed by Rudd.

No Rally folk were there with placards; so were TOOT, students wanting longer semesters, women pro choice, a young student wanting carbon emission reduction targets kept, Omega speaking out against nukes and me wanting an end the the US Drug War, the Iraq, Afghan and Pakistan Wars and the US Alliance generally.

But Rudd fled from the Big Joint.

He contrived to get from the Hospital across the road to the Auditorium outside which we had set up, and away from it after, without being seen.

Rudd may have sought invisibility but we were greeted warmly by the Member for Richmond, Janelle Saffron, and her media man, Peter Elam, former editor of the Northern Star. Also by honks and cheers and waves from about every fifth car passing on the road.

There is something very disarming about Police Force. Chatty and jokey, the real police stood about sweating in the sun in the their blue uniform coveralls. Wearing a mock of it, we could empathise.

They told me that they were rostered on for the Rally and indeed thanked me (and by inference all the resisters to the Rally) for the overtime it had given them.

Their boss and my erstwhile bete noir, Local Area Commander Superintendent "Bluey " Lyons, came past; i called to him and saluted my Polite Force cap. At once he came over to me and shook my hand, but i cannot be sure he knew it was me in Polite disguise.

The best part of the protest was when Rudd was in the Auditorium and the speeches were about to begin. I turned a speaker around so that it would be heard inside the auditorium and invited speakers from all the various causes represented there to take the mike and address Rudd directly.

The Bluey's Deputy came rushing out the door. We negotiated a 10 minute SpeakOut, a sound grab from each. Feisty they were and it finished with a cry of pain from a damaged Aboriginal woman whose kids had been taken from her.

When the PA shut down and chant started up. "No Rally in the Valley! No Rally in the Valley!".

I reckoned we had all the media exposure we needed and, wanting to get back to No Rally organising, brought in the flags and was rolling away down Uralba Street before Rudd had finished his speech.

But the Big Joint stayed. It moved across the road so that Rudd would have to see it as his car drew away from the Auditorium. When the bustle of security let them know he was coming, the hempsters lifted it up and ... snagged the glowing red end of the Big Joint on a no smoking sign!

Ripped, it began to exhale. Michael bunched and twisted the front till the leak was stopped. A Big Joint with a twist and another great story enters the annals of myth and legend of the Nimbin HEMP Embassy.

Graeme Dunstan
26 August 2009


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