Another successful Stand Fast barracks SpeakOut
Stand Fast had another successful SpeakOut Friday 24 September, this time in front of Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney.
Numbers were small but Graeme's banners and our presence sent a strong message to the people coming in and out the main gate of Holsworthy.
Graeme and I were joined by some members of Sydney's Stop the War Coalition, Marlene Obeid, Joe and Christine, and also by John Percy, National Secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, who spoke on the open mike of his involvement in the movement (from its early days) against the Vietnam War and of his support for what Stand Fast is doing.
There wasn't as much media as we had in Brisbane, but there were journalists from the local Liverpool newspaper (Liverpool Leader) and form the Sydney Morning Herald. I also did radio interviews with 2UE, the National Radio News Network and 4ZZZ.
There seems to be some misunderstanding amongst some in the anti-war movement that these actions are somehow attacking soldiers or conversely that we are telling people to focus on soldiers and ignore Afghanistan's brutalised people. This could not be further from the truth.
Many soldiers passing expressed their support for what we are doing, many more than the two which hurled abuse as they passed.
We were set up near a roundabout and as one car was entering the roundabout the soldier driving gave us a thumbs up and said, "You're doing a great job!Ó"He then did a full circle of the roundabout so the soldier in the passenger seat could also face us and say, "Yeah, you are really doing a good job!" People who have never been the Army might not realise how big a deal it is to show support for us where the soldiers could possibly be seen by others.
Soldiers are the worst gossips in the world and the 'digger net' is faster than any broadband network. By that afternoon there would have been discussion and debate about our presence and about the war in Afghanistan throughout the base as soldiers were sitting around waiting for the beginning of their weekend.
This is one of the unique things that Stand Fast can bring to the anti-war movement because it is a lot harder for the military brass to write us off as they do the civilian population and protesters in particular. It is not a substitute for any other tactic but just another weapon in our armoury.
The Stand Fast barracks speakouts will continue to roll on. Challenging the war in Afghanistan and raising discussion and debate within the military.
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Banner rig in Macarthur Drive, Holsworthy, 24 September 2010. Guernica banner courtesy of the Sydney Stop the War Coaltion
Patiently building a veterans' movement
against the Afghan War
Like Hamish says, successful. We got noticed.
At the Holsworthy Barracks entrance, we were few. Just six of us. But we were colourful (a fine array of banners and flags), loud and pertinent.
Compared to the Enogerra Speak Out, media response was light. The Sydney Morning Herald sent a photographer and the Liverpool Leader, a photographer and journalist. These media people loved the event and parted shaking our hands and beaming goodwill.
Most remarkable for me was the goodwill and cooperation from the cops. The Local Area Commander, Superintendent Peter McEliane, came in person to greet and wish us well. He spoke of having recently visited the Solomon Islands and learning of the history of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
And while i was setting up, Federal Agent Jody Earl arrived to confirm our right to protest and left a number to ring if anyone should challenged us. Since it had been sorted with local police and MPs days before, his journey to tell me this was more a passion than a necessity. Good on him.
And likewise cooperative and respectful were the MPs of duty (OIC Lt Daniel Tyson, a recent Duntroon gaduate) and the Local Miltary Area Base Manager, Colin Wilson, a public servant.
While the SpeakOut was in progress i spied a soldier in fatigues, sitting on the steel barrier across the way and taking notes. I approached him and inquired if he was reporting for Army News or some such. Tersely he replied that he had been ordered to come and report. I supposed he to be from some kind of Intelligence unit and reporting to the base commander.
"Please tell your commander from me that this is the third of a series of barrack gate Speak Outs organised by Stand Fast and we will continue organising barrack gate Speak Outs until our troops are withdrawn," i dictated. "Our aim is to build a veterans' movement against the Afghan War which will continue as an advocacy group for Afghan veterans' into the future."
We may be assured that there have been lots of signals and memos flying.
We packed up early and i was tying down bamboo poles as the knock off rush hour came past. Some passing soldiers gave us the thumbs up, some called out taunts, the most repeated and ironic of which was: "Loser!".
Outnumbering jeers by far were the cheers and calls of encouragement from passing civies in delivery trucks and what nots. And most heart warming was a young man of Egyptian descent who stopped, parked and came to say his support in person. I regret i didn't give him the mike because he was lucid and succinct about his opposition to the war.
Seems to me this is a deeply and widely unpopular war and people generally are grateful to hear some sense talked about it.
Our campaign has not yet drawn out and made visible and vocal any disaffected Afghan vets. Patience is called for.
What we are doing is kind of a magic, a cultural shift magic. We say the invocations and repeat the rituals with care and concentration ... and the magic does what the magic does in its own time.
Meanwhile support gathers. A Facebook response to our Holsworthy SpeakOut notice has come from a non-vet supporter in Wodonga offering to help promote a Speak Out there. Maybe at the Gaza Ridge Barracks at Bandiana, a WW2 built supply base in the land of the hollow hills. Maybe October.
26 September 2010