When a coach load of Africans arrived in the beachside park where
Peacebus had camped the night before the Commonwealth Heads Of
Government Meeting (CHOGM), we knew the party had begun. They were
there to represent the cause of the Sudanese Liberation Movement.
Peacebus and crew were there to bear witness for peace and human
rights and to participate in the globalisation counter conference
that would be taking outside the gates and security fences of CHOGM.
In the course of negotiating Peacebus’ CHOGM presence with the
police, I had been introduced to two of their organisers, and now
they greeted me warmly. The Peacebus crew at breakfast watched the
Africans stream past on their way to the toilets. Men, women, girls.
Such colour and spirit. Some in grass skirts. Long legs and big
smiles. Brothers and sisters joined in the quest for peace and
The Peacebus crew of the CHOGM mission comprised Robin Harrison,
Vietnam vet, professional actor, drummer, street performer, and
sniffer dog resistance hero from Byron, Sandra Neilson, a green
haired, tattooed lady, mother and healer from the Mullumbimby area,
driver Johan Hendrick van den Hoorn, a royalist on a mission to meet
the Queen and dubbed Sir Johan by me for his valiant defence of the
Peacebus banners during the Aston campaign of July last year, me,
passionate and foolish old man and my travelling companions Molly
(ewe), Jolly (lamb) and Jennifer (Maremma dog).
A fourth companion joined us, when we arrived at Coolum in the
early morning hours. He was a pamphleteer I met in Nimbin who called
himself Max No Difference. It
appears that he had heard about our mission on ABC north coast radio
and decided to come with his own message to the Queen: among other
things that she
abdicate forthwith. That we had met in the park had been
Local residents coming by our camp to walk dogs or take an early
morning swim welcomed us, some with mild curiosity, others with
gladness. One in particular was besotted by Molly, Jolly and,
Jennifer and happily joined us for coffee. He told us that his house
was directly opposite the gates of the Hyatt, that he was a local
ABC Radio newsreader, the voice of the Sunshine Coast, and that he
was to be MC at the opening of CHOGM later in the morning.
Announcer Al questioned us about our mission and when we
mentioned kindness for refugees, he wanted to join up with Peacebus
at once. We urged him to become an undercover Peacebus operative a
subversive for peace during the CHOGM proceedings. And so it was we
began the day with laugher.
The night journey to Coolum CHOGM had not been an easy one.
We had taken our time departing Byron, sitting about Peacebus in
Apex Park, Byron Bay eating oysters, fish and chips, drinking beer,
smoking joints with well wishers. The idea was to travel slowly,
take it easy, have time for the crew to get to know each other and
arrive in Coolum early in the morning with of time to get in
Slow it was indeed. Peacebus had laboured the last 40 km along
the motorway beset by a new variety of mechanical problem. New? Sir
Johan at the wheel had not wanted to stop for fear Peacebus would
not start again. “We will sort it out when we get to Coolum”, he had
shouted to us when Happy Wheels drew alongside to enquire why he was
driving at 20-30 kph.
Ten km from the Coolum Hyatt, a police patrol car pulled us over.
They were pleasant but thorough in checking our ID, the first of
many ID checks that night. It was at this first check that I first
noticed Johan’s agitation. He couldn’t sit still, jumping in and out
and about on the drivers seat.
For the previous three days Johan had been with me helping,
driving and waiting patiently while I got the side panels painted,
the PA fitted, the banners and poles loaded and generally prepared
Peacebus for the mission. He had grumbled a bit then but now he was
a boiling pot.
While the police officers were doing their check, I asked him to
start the engine to see if it was an ignition problem. Johan started
the engine and drove off.
“Does he realise it is an offence to drive off from a police
inspection without permission?” the lovely but surprised Constable
Kerryn MacCallum asked me. I shrugged. “I think he wants to get to
CHOGM”, I said. Then we both ran to our vehicles to chase Peacebus
down the road.
Johan was determined to petition Queen Elizabeth II, who would be
opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting later that
morning. He had prepared a lengthy analysis of the ills of the
worlds and assembled it in a thick ring folder each page in a
plastic sleeve. Maybe 150 pages, it was the product of much
research, TV watching, social isolation, paranoia and obsessive
thinking. At essence it was a plea for unity and reason, a cry of a
man who had a big heart, a sense of injustice and good intentions.
But who was just not being heard.
He had sent me emails with part of his rave and battered my ears
with other aspects of it. Rave without end, amen. Brow creased, eyes
pleading, manner earnest, talk relentless in its mind numbing
It wasn’t new to me for I had worked with Sir Johan in Nimbin on
a number of events including three Nimbin Mardi Grasses over the
past four years. I had taken to being curt with him, cutting off his
raving with “I don’t need to know this!” and “Give me a break, go
somewhere else.” Side panel painter Helen Rodriguez had refused
Johan entry to her house. “I got enough madness to deal with
already”, she had said.
Sir Johan was hurt by these exclusions, but never angry. Never
had school friends, he told me. After two years jail for cannabis
growing in his early 20s, he had lived twenty years as a hermit. “No
social skills”, he would apologise.
Now Johan had fixed his mind that his rave had to be presented to
the Queen, somehow. What the aging and increasingly irrelevant
monarch might do with it, I had no idea. But Johan was convinced
there might be a chance. “Her sister has just died, Graeme. I saw
her on TV grieving beside the grave, a small mound of flowers,
insignificant when compared to the floral abundance on Lady Di’s
grave. She must have noticed that. She is open to change and new
I had wanted to get Peacebus to Coolum early so that the crew
might see the site negotiated for our presence. But when we arrived
outside the Coolum Hyatt, Johan drove Peacebus up on the grass verge
at the corner of the entrance street, declaring this to be the best
position. True, it was. But it was not the position that I had
negotiated with the police.
The pot had boiled over. Suddenly out the window went all the
police negotiated agreements, a process in praise of which I had
been so fulsome and public.
Johan sat cross-legged on the driver’s seat, crossing and re
crossing and uncrossing his legs and blathering paranoia about
police deceptions. “The delegates will be brought in via another
entrance. Its all trickery.” and so on.
The police fussed about as I ordered Johan out of the driver’s
seat with a drill sergeant’s voice.
Johan promptly grabbed his petition and the tent he had painted
up with slogans (a lantern, he had told me), quit Peacebus and
strode down the street to sit himself cross legged on his tent
directly opposite the Coolum Hyatt entrance gate. This was the very
heart of the Restricted Area that 4,000 Queensland police officers
of the CHOGM security task force, backed up with special legislative
powers, were committed to enforcing.
The gods must have been laughing. I had celebrated success when
CHOGM police commander, Chief Inspector Bob Watson had announced
that his goal for CHOGM was zero arrests. Now Peacebus had delivered
a nutter intent on being arrested. At 2 am, five hours before the
Queen was due.
I apologised to Inspector Bob the duty officer at the Hyatt gate
and told him I would take Peacebus to Birranl Park 200 metres away,
settle the crew and the animals and then come back and talk some
more to Johan. “Yes please,” he said. “As soon as possible please.
This is an Incident.”
When I got back to Sir Johan, he wasn’t listening to me.
“Everyone knows you are working for ASIO, an undercover operative
set on rendering the CHOGM protests ineffective,” he said. “If you
were a real friend you would find an Aboriginal elder to sign and
authorise my petition to the Queen.” An elder who could read and
understand Johanism. In Coolum at 2.30 am in the morning. Get real.
Paranoia in full flight, Johan raved on, abusive now, chiding me
for the insults he had suffered over the past three days. Bone
weary, I told the Inspector I could do no more, washed my hands of
Sir Johan, until very recently the driver of Peacebus. Left him to
his fate, and drove back to Birranl Park to sleep.
The deep sleep into which I feel was cut off, however by a trail
bike riding police constable calling my name. 3 am. Tall, handsome,
pommy accent, he could have stepped off the set of the The Bill.
When Peacebus had driven into the park earlier, he and his fellow
bikie had introduced themselves and made another ID check.
“Excuse me, Mr Dunstan, but this park is a restricted area too
and you must move”, he said ever so politely. Give me a break,
fellas. Let me talk to your commander.
The officer dialled a number on his mobile and handed it over. I
pleaded reason and compassion. Respect for blessed sleep. “You know
who we are. Four ID checks can’t be wrong. You know we are here for
peaceful protest. You know we are intent of sleeping, just like the
hundreds of residents around about. What trouble are we causing
“You Are In A Restricted Area And You Must Move”. Could have been
a robot speaking. I invited him to wake the CHOGM security
commander, just like he had woken me, and see how he feels about
moving Peacebus. Then hung up and went back to bed.
Poor Inspector Bob came to the door of Happy Wheels to plead with
me in person. “There is another park just up the road 700 meters,”
he said. Not in the restricted area. But I wasn’t into it. (The next
day I checked for this park. As an option it was a bummer, no off
road parking, no shade, or no toilets.) I wished him good night,
closed and locked the doors of Happy Wheels and began deep breath
In the quietness of the night I could hear the police officers
working on Robin Harrison who was sleeping on the ground in a swag
beside Peacebus. I tried to imagine how they were going to move him,
Sandra who was sleeping on a mattress on the roof of Peacebus and
Max, locked in his car.
Here was how Robin’s logic was working at 3 am in the morning.
“If there were 200 of us sleeping here, would you be doing this?” I
heard him ask.
More muttering in the night. Then a voice: “Mr Dunstan it has
been decided that it’s okay for you to stay. Please open up so that
I am not talking to a van door.”
I flung the door open and standing by in the moonlight was the
mild mannered Inspector Bob again. I thanked him, apologised for
creating so much stress for him, and lay back down. Out like a
Peace is a path walked, not a destination. Best it can, Peacebus
makes peace as it goes. As we journey towards an action, many
opportunities for peace making. Particularly welcomed is police
Coolum CHOGM 2-5 March 2002, (CHOGM II as Chief Inspector Bob
Watson described it) was the postponed version of CHOGM I which was
to have taken placed at South Bank in West End, Brisbane 6-9 October
2001. This had been called off at the eleventh hour when Prime
Ministers Blair and Howard decided that the US War on Terrorism had
a higher priority. Blair had bombs to drop on the poor of
Afghanistan, and Howard had boatloads Afghan refugees to persecute
and an election to win.
West End is an old docks area, traditional home of the left of
the Brisbane. Local anarchist groups had declared that it would be a
CHOGM Free Zone. And so it became, thanks to events in New York on
11 September 2001. What an awesome anti globalisation statement that
With CHOGM I postponed the protester organizations decided to
follow through with their organising momentum and proceed with the
proposed anti CHOGM March anyway but in the name of peace. It was a
beautiful day, more than 3,000 people came out, lots of colour, lots
of inspiring speeches.
The Queensland Police and Queensland Premiers Department had
worked closely with protest organizations preparing for CHOGM I and
its cancellation had taken away all threat of confrontation at the
peace rally. Goodwill prevailed everywhere. Protesters and police
played cricket together in Musgrave Park.
So it was upon this foundation that negotiations for the CHOGM II
The head of the Queensland Police Major Events and Disaster Unit,
Snr Sgt Gary Keillor called me about CHOGM II in December while I
was in Victoria on rest and recreation and my mind a million miles
from Brisbane. I had enjoyed working with Gary on CHOGM I. He is a
big and kindly man, a veritable lighthouse of goodwill.
He told me the purpose of his call was to check on my CHOGM II
intentions, but I got the distinct impression he was actively
inviting Peacebus to participate. When I told him I hadn’t been
thinking about it, Gary supplied me with compelling reasons. “Blair
will be there”, he said. “G.A.T.S. (General Agreement on Trade and
Services, a treaty that the World Trade Organisation is pushing to
lock national governments into opening up all public services to
private tender) will be on the agenda”, he told me. By gosh, I
better be there then, I replied.
So on Thursday 21 February on behalf of Peacebus I attended a
meeting with police in their Brisbane HQ to negotiate its
participation in the CHOGM protests.
My stated interest was to negotiate a safe and effective
engagement in the opportunity offered by the CHOGM media focus to
bear witness for peace and human rights, and to the suffering of the
poor and the dispossessed in this time of resource and tax super
piracy by the global super rich.
My heart’s desire is that every opportunity be seized to build
and strengthen the anti globalisation movement.
The meeting was hosted by Gary Keillor and attended by Inspector
Jim Casey, head of the Crowd Management Cell of the CHOGM Planning
Unit, and Col Strofield, the Qld Police solicitor. Gary sketched a
map on a whiteboard and showed me the options. Our only issue was
poles. I need them to rig banners and flags, CHOGM security special
powers banned anything than might be used as a weapon including
sticks on placards.
I haggled and won the concession. The winning plea was that the
police had video evidence of my safe use of poles at the M1 protest.
Even when held by total strangers in the argy bargy of that
contested space, they had remained upright, proudly banner bearing
Gary invited me to sit in while representatives from two other
protest groups, Elske Harrison, representing Jubilee Australia and
John Andress, representing Falun Dafa, negotiated their
participation. Lovely people. I got to be able to offer them poles
for their banners too.
The next day I met Gary Keillor in Coolum 120 km north of
Brisbane to walk the site with him. He had also ferried from
Brisbane in his unmarked police car Andrew from Falun Dafa and two
representatives of the Sudanese Liberation Movement, Jacob and
Simon. I offered tea and we sat in the shade of Birranl Park,
talking about the human rights causes we represented. A networking
and movement-building meeting courtesy of Qld Police.
The goodwill of the police was impressive. Gary had said to me in
all sincerity "many Queensland police officers share your concerns."
Inspector Jim Casey had told me that he wanted this event to
demonstrate that anti globalisation protests can be conducted
peacefully. He said he wanted the Qld police approach of consulting
with and being helpful to the participating protest groups to be a
model for other police services in Australia. I heard another police
officer drop that the Americans were being kept at arms length from
CHOGM security. Thank God for the Commonwealth!
Gary told me of the Police commissioner’s invitation to protest
organisers to join him and other senior police for morning tea on
Tuesday 25 March. I declined saying I had to go south and organise
Peacebus. But Gary was insistent so I re-jigged my schedule.
Glad I did. Because I got to be witness to a revolution.
The meeting took place in the Commissioner’s Boardroom at
Queensland Police Headquarters. It was hosted by the Qld
Commissioner Bob Atkinson and his deputy commissioner and attended
by about 25 senior police from the CHOGM Planning Unit and 10 people
representing the protest organizations which had negotiated peaceful
protest permits. These were the CHOGM Action Alliance (which
umbrella-ed Friends of the Earth, Socialist Alliance, Resistance and
so on), Jubilee Australia, Falun Dafa, a Brisbane based Greek
community group wanting the return of the Elgin marbles, the
Sudanese Liberation Movement and Peacebus.com.
The object of the meeting was gratitude. The Queensland Police
Commissioner wanted to thank us for our cooperation and ask if there
were any final points he and his officers could help us with.
He sat everyone down in a circle of chairs. I sat on the left of
the Commissioner (grey heads of the world unite!), the petit Elske
Harrison from Jubilee Australia sat between the Commissioner and his
Deputy, others dispersed around the circle. So egalitarian. The
Commissioner invited each of the protest organisers to speak. Each
of used the opportunity to explain our cause and our mission to an
attentive and respectful audience of senior police.
I affirmed the good work of Sgt Gary Keillor. “You have got a
good man there, Commissioner. A man with a big heart who listens,
cares and strives to be helpful.”
The Africans had arrived late. Four of them had entered the
commissioner’s boardroom bearing themselves with head turning
dignity and nobility. When it came time their spokesperson to speak,
his accent was heavy and his heart was heaving. So much suffering,
horror and grief in his story. Everyone strained to listen. He said
the Arab tyrants and slavers from the north were oppressing the
indigenous non Muslim Africans of south Sudan. Simon said that all
his family, friends and peers, were either dead or dispersed as
refugees around the world. I understand that some 6000 African
Sudanese have taken refuge in Australia over the past 2 years or so.
“This is the first time in Australia that any police have ever
listened to us”, he said.
The Commissioner invited the commander of CHOGM security, Chief
Inspector Bob Watson, to speak. Bob said that when he had taken up
the job he had researched the policing of anti globalisation
protests in Brisbane (m1 May 1st 2001), Melbourne s11 11 September
2000), Genoa, Stockholm, Washington and Seattle and decided
Queensland Police would do it differently.
At all those protests injury reports clearly show police the most
dangerous element in the mix.
I heard Bob Watson say that it was his belief that the police
have a responsibility for the security and safety of everyone
present. He said that the indicator he had set for the success of
the CHOGM II crowd management was zero arrests.
I heard the Commissioner Bob Atkinson back him up and say that
Coolum CHOGM was only the beginning. All future protest events in
Queensland will be managed with the same respect for protest groups
and care in planning and preparation.
Now subscriber emailing is at the heart of the communications for
anti-globalisation protests. I am totally open channel on this and
include on my mailings all the people I am dealing with in regard to
the action, police and public servants too. No secrets, no
surprises. Every word, an invitation to dialogue.
I put out an email on the CHOGM Action Alliance subscriber list
saying how impressed I had been with the police liaison process. I
know it would get a bite from someone on the Left and it came from
Hamish, an organiser of the CHOGM Action Network protests for CHOGM
Hamish wrote on 24 February:
“It is not for the police to tell us where to
protest. I suspect you are a little to trusting, and that the
"goodwill of the police" is in fact the intensively workshopped
expertise of handpicked PR police. I'm not one to claim that "all
cops are bastards" or anything, but I think we should
realistically acknowledge that there is a conscious strategy to
contain us going on. It is imperative that whatever our
strategies, and whatever values we bring to our strategic
thinking, that we refuse to be contained. Hamish.
To which I replied on 25 February:
You suggest maybe that I am a little too
trusting and that we should be conscious of our "containment" by
police. That is how it is for me. When dealing with honest and
kind people I am as trusting as a boy receiving the world in his
I could be wrong and everything that my senses
are telling me may be deluded, all imaginings easily dismissed as
containment and accommodation.
But what I seem to be noticing is a revolution
in the crowd management attitudes and methods of the Qld Police.
There was a time when Qld Police had only two
tactics for responding to protest. The Bronco (two or more burly
cops charge in to the crowd, rugby tackle selected
"troublemakers", wind them, put ‘em in a paddy wagon and drop them
down town with bruises and severe warnings) and The Cattle Drive
(herd the crowd into cul de sac of paddy wagons and arrest them
Just think how far we have come in Brisbane
since M1, only 9 months ago.
If we negotiators can be criticised as
contained, the police on their part could be criticised as
From what I can work out, Snr Sgt Gary Keillor,
head of the Qld Police Major Events Unit, is producing the
protests on our behalf. He has done more organising and
co-ordinating for the Coolum CHOGM counter conference than anyone
else visible to me.
Gary has certainly called me more than any
other organiser and he has personally ferried organisers of
different groups to Coolum so they might check out the site. In
the process of meetings he has facilitated networking and
introduced me to some very beautiful people, my fellow human
What if the police were sincere in saying they
are as much concerned about human rights abuses as we protesters
What if they too are appalled by the deep down
meanness and cynicism of PM Howard?
What if they were demonstrating to us that they
didn't want GATS either (it would privatise policing too) or the
piracy of our natural resources and the fouling of our environment
by the corporate greed of the super rich?
Imagine if this might be the way peaceful
What we have got at Coolum gives us lots of
opportunities for getting noticed. With such abundant goodwill,
the opportunities for playfulness and movement building will be
I will come a talk more at the CHOGM Action
Alliance meeting tonight.
For Peace! For turning towards kindness! For
the Earth! Graeme
I also put out a Peacebus media release headed “Peace breaks out at
Coolum CHOGM”. Australian Associated Press picked it up and put it
out on the wire. So the vibe was set for CHOGM. No confrontation was
to be expected and the police media actively down played security
The peaceful protest permits for Peacebus were signed but on
Thursday I got a call from Peacebus’ appointed police liaison
officer, Inspector Bob Peas, to say that CHOGM security wanted one
more thing from us: a bomb search before taking up our position at
the protest site.
“All CHOGM vehicles, media buses, police cars, delegate
transport, are being checked”, Bob explained. Since Peacebus was the
only vehicle approved for the protest it was to be included in the
security screen. Just a few sweeps with electronic gear. In and out
15 minutes, he assured.
Bombs on Peacebus? Bongs more likely. This I had to see. I agreed
to be there 8.30 am Saturday, Sugar Road, Maroochydore.
So it was we loaded up Peacebus with our protest gear and crew
and set off, Robin Harrison at the wheel. But I forgotten to ask for
a map and we were soon lost. I called the police for directions and
an escort. The escort took 30 minutes to find us and then began to
lead us way down south.
Travelling behind the beat up paddy wagon our faith in the police
began to waiver. “Do I see a sniffer dog in the back of that paddy
wagon?” Robin asked. We were of course loaded with cannabis, a
traditional cargo of Peacebus missions and we were now 25 km south
“Why are they taking us so far away to do this?” I pondered.
Enough. When the lights changed at the next intersection we did a
U-turn and lost our escort. I phoned Inspector Jim Casey to say we
were bailing out of the bomb inspection, not part of our permit and
returning to CHOGM.
“Bear with me on this, Graeme”, Jim pleaded. “Trust us. I promise
you will be in and out within 15 minutes and you will have a police
escort back to Coolum.” “Motorcycles with flashing blue lights?” I
asked. Okay. Okay.
And so we proceeded on again. Lost again till the police found us
again way south of Sugar Road intersection. The escort was then
reluctant to move, on the radio reporting in and assuming that we
were being uncooperative. Delays upon delays. Robin impatient on the
PA: “Move it, please.”
The bomb checks were being conducted in a former bus depot. A
bus-sized pit was needed for the routine. Hard to find. This was the
reason the check was so far from CHOGM.
We rolled into the old bus depot with the PA pumping “Dark Side
of the Moon”. Inside were half a dozen police officers and 20
soldiers in camouflage fatigues. They were from the 6th Royal
Australian Regiment who told us they had recently undergone training
in bomb detection and sweeping. Fine young men clear eyed, alert,
courteous and efficient.
As the bus rolled to a stop I leapt out and approached the dog
handler who was standing by the door. “What’s the dog trained to
detect?” I asked as the Alsatian he was holding began to sniff about
“Explosives and other stuff”, he replied. “Cannabis?” I asked.
“Yeah but he has detected that already,” he said. With a shrug he
indicated no worries.
Turned out the dog handler had been hired for the day. He
recognised Robin from another protest for which he had been hired as
security and they were soon chatting amicably.
Relaxed I watched as the soldiers go over and under Peacebus.
Every crevasse and hidey-hole searched. All baggage out, all baggage
back in again. “Step this way through the metal detector please
sir.” Thank you. All clear.
People who see Peacebus cruising by will be pleased to know it
has certified bomb free by 6 RAR.
If all the bog in Peacebus were Semetex, what a blast it would
Peacebus was dudded on the promise of a police motorcycle escort
with flashing blue lights. Our escort was the same beat up paddy
wagon, but it sped us north through the traffic.
North of the Maroochydore airport, scattered groups of people
were lining the road to welcome the Queen. An audience! On with the
“This is Peacebus.com. We are going to CHOGM to bear witness for
human rights. When you are waving at the Queen, remember the
suffering of the refugees in the detention centres. Let Howard know
decent Australians are appalled by his meanness and cynicism.”
Short grabs. Many cheers and waves in response. More than
anything I think it was the colour and spirit of Peacebus that had
won the hearts of the gathered Queen greeters.
But not all of them, of course. Passing through Marcoola, a
massive new Gold Coast style high rise on the beach development, a
police sergeant waved us and our escort over. “Do you have a permit
for that PA?” he asked through the window. But I had already called
up Inspector Jim Casey on my mobile. “Speak to this man”, I said
offering him the phone. We were soon underway again, PA trumpeting.
Outside the Hyatt, our fellow protesters, the Greeks, the
Sudanese and Jubilee Australia were in position and they gave us a big
cheer. When we pulled into position Gary Keillor was there to greet
us with a smile. “The Queen’s motorcade is due in 15 minutes”, he
We flew in rigging the Peacebus banners. “Let compassion rule.
Close the gulags.” “No racism no war!” “Viva Timbarra! Forever ban
cyanide gold mining” and the Freedom Ride hand sign banners peace,
power, prayer and perfection. The Peacebus butterfly opened its
wings once more.
An African woman from the Sudanese Liberation Movement asked if
she could use the PA to rev up the crowd. Sure thing and away she
went. While we rigged lashing the poles onto the side of Peacebus
and the security fence behind, she led call and response chants.
I crossed the road to take a photograph of the set up. Chief
Superintendent Bob Watson was standing on the other side of the
security fence and greeted me warmly. “Beautiful, yes?” I said
gesturing towards the chanting Africans and the colours of our rig.
Big smile. A happy crowd at CHOGM. Success.
A young constable reminded me of my business. He pointed to the
approach of the Queen’s motorcade 50 meters down the road. I ran
back to Peacebus, gesturing to the African cheerleaders to join me
on the roof.
We were arm in arm chanting “Free, Free, Free Sudan!” as the
Queen went by in her chunky old black Rolls Royce, her face as set
and stiff as her mechanical arm wave.
Here was the richest woman on earth, the epitome of privilege,
and she looked pathetic. Compared to the life and colours of the
world outside the windows of her Roller, she was a dressed up but
dried out husk. The black sister standing beside me had more of
life’s juice in her than the entire British royal family.
The motorcade passed in a flash. The show was over and the
Africans jubilant. Walking back to the park to check Jennifer, Molly
and Jolly, a big, broad shouldered African man walking beside me,
took me under his arm. He had been the drummer for the chanting and
he was in wild dress, a headband holding two upright feathers on
either side his head.
‘Thank you”, he said. “Your freedom is our freedom, our freedom,
My heart took flight.
The rain came in and the umbrellas and raincoats came out. Events
for the rest of Saturday were conducted in dampness. Wash out!
Placards, pamphlets and protesters soggy. Police too. Some got
wrapped in clear plastic. But others were told that the cling-wrap
look was not kosher, and they stood in the rain in correct but wet
An estimated 250 people showed up for the demonstrations. Police
had said they had been expecting 1,500. With 4000 police on duty,
that’s 16 police officers for every protester.
I didn’t get to see much of the protest at the CHOGM Action
Alliance site further up the road. The PA was on for a while but
went quiet when the rain became heavy. I saw and was embraced by my
student friends from the Global Justice Alliance in Lismore. They
were feeling soggy and somewhat dismal at having traveled 300 km (a
600 km round journey) for a washout. Edda shrugged. You win some,
you lose some.
The inside of Peacebus transformed into a cannabis café and
salon, with Robin and Sandra making mugs of coffee and tea and
joints passing about. Always at such events there are meetings of
friends, exchange of news, and catching up to be done. Peacebus has
many friends and supporters, many comrades from the roads it has
journeyed for justice.
Robin chose to do his rap performance from the inside of Peacebus,
amongst a tightly squeezed and intimate circle of friends, the 30
watt speakers throwing the sound across the golf greens to the
reception centre, soggy police officers his audience.
I brought Jennifer, Molly and Jolly up to the protest site. The
very sight of them walking together delights, faces spontaneously
light up with smiles. The wolf lays down with the lamb, the very
image of peace in public place.
Our police liaison officer, Inspector Bob Peas, revealed himself to
be a dog lover and somewhat of a nomad too. He had a camper van and
it was his joy, he told me, to take his dog and go camp in the bush.
Jennifer seemed to sense Bob’s kindness and empathy and she settled
herself down beside him, Molly and Jolly likewise. For a time there
Bob got to be the highest paid shepherd in Queensland.
But the rain got too much for Jennifer and after a while she came
to me pleading that she and Molly to be taken back to the park, to
Happy Wheels and shelter.
The highlight of the afternoon was a ceremony conducted by
Jubilee Australia to bear witness to the suffering created for the
poor by the World Bank debt burden carried by nations such as
Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam and others. Father Brian Gore,
an Australian priest, a Colombian, conducted the ceremony.
Fr Gore had been active in the people power movement that had
overthrown the Marcos regime in the 80s. And he was still doing it,
vastly respected and loved both in Australia and the Philippines. A
social action, social conscience of the Church in these times of
global piracy by the global super rich.
Peacebus was the set for the ceremony. I had offered Elska and
Thea, the organisers, the use of Peacebus’ PA. After Peacebus was
moved into position for them I asked Fr Gore if he was okay with the
signage. “Water more precious than gold” and “Let compassion rule.
Close the gulags”. Yes, absolutely yes, he affirmed.
I brought my hands together in the prayer gesture; a heart felt
salute to his great spirit.
A table had been set up against the side of Peacebus. It
supported placard with an image of third world hungry child, and a
basket of paper chains and paper bundles representing babies. Father
Gore stood beside dressed in full priestly regalia. About 60 people
had gathered to participate.
The ceremony began with music from a CD being distributed by
Jubilee Australia. The opening track was Mozart’s Lachrymose. The
tears of Mother Mary. In the rain, the drip, drip, dripping and the
many coloured umbrellas making the remembrance even more poignant.
The ceremony was scripted for multiple voices and included a call
and response chant “Drop the debt” .The audience were invited to
reach out and symbolically break the chains of poverty and
oppression and relieve the hunger of the poor and their babies. The
chant finished abruptly: “For God’s sake:” “DROP THE DEBT!” Smiles
broke out and fellowship was all around.
The day was over and Peacebus crew brought in the banners and
quit the soggy site.
Peacebus had got lots of exposure that day and made many friends.
Lots of cars travelling along David Low Way responded to the ‘Honk
for peace” signage on the back of Peacebus. Many people cheered and
waved at our colourful presence. News cameras had used us as
Snr Sgt Gary Keillor was happy. Our CHOGM liaison officer from
Qld Premiers department, Amanda Scarpato, was happy. Inspector Jim
Casey rang and apologised for the bomb search confusion and the
renege on the motorcycle escort promise. “The Queen’s need had taken
precedence”, he said. “Wrong priorities, Jim”, I chided. Peace
From the radio interviews I heard of the CHOGM delegates, peace
and mutuality seemed to be everywhere. Queensland Premier Beattie
was so pleased with the outcome that he offered to have CHOGM back
again in two years time. CHOGM certainly makes much better news, and
generates better feeling, than the news of the US War on Terrorism.
Peacebus camped Saturday night in another beachside park, north
of Coolum. The Sunday morning ocean sky was overcast but we were
able to hang our banners about on trees and dry them in the breeze.
Peacebus is ever a colourful presence.
It wasn’t long before we had police sitting with us again. No ID
checks now, we were so well known. If the police at the Hyatt were
under employed, how much more idle were these officers patrolling
the ‘northern sector’. They were grateful for our company.
These conversations inevitably turn to policing issues, and
inevitably to drug policy. My early morning guest was a detective
from Caboolture. His issue was the suffering and crime associated
with the distribution and manufacture of amphetamines. The drug
itself, he noted, is a cause aggression, psychosis and domestic
violence. But the worst aspect for him was the way prohibition
policies organise speed makers, sellers and users into a culture of
intimation, violence and crime. Here was the domestic version of the
US War of Terrorism in our back yard.
Max No Difference had followed us to the camp and had tried the surf. He had
been such excellent help putting out the Peacebus rig the day before
my heart was open to him, full of gratitude. “How was the water”, I
asked him as he washed off the salt at the shower by the camp. The
response was a surprise, a tirade of venomous abuse.
Seems Max’s pot had boiled over too. I had seen it happen before,
but not with me as target before. He was furious. He too accused me of
working for ASIO and subverting the protests. “You are so totally
deluded!” he said walking away and then coming back with more: “If I
wasn’t a man of peace I would beat you to a pulp.”
My response was stay in the calm of the morning. “Max, I don’t
understand your behavior. What do you want from me?” It was a
question that hung between us unanswered. But I got a general
impression from his ranting that he was frustrated not to have
presented his petition to the Queen and that he was upset that I had
not recognised his authority as master of the universe.
Robin’s response was to override Max’s paranoid outpourings with
his loud and theatrical voice, a street performer dealing with a
street nuisance. Every time Max spoke, Robin would repeat: “Why don’t
you go some where else and abuse someone who offers you less
kindness and respect.”
The two jabbered over each other. The contradictions and the din hurt my head. I pleaded
with Robin for quiet and less provocation. Max soon enough departed.
Another day and another paranoid. A line from the Last
Testamentary Teachings of Padampa Sangay (16 century Tibetan saint)
rolled around in my head: “Ever more bear in your heart, the pain
and sorrow of the world. Faith thereby regains vigour. Trim your
Peacebus had committed to putting out lanterns at Tickle Park
that evening, Sunday 3 March, to support a peace initiative by a
local Coolum woman, Karen Fletcher and her association, Move for
Peace. Peacebus was bearing a load of lanterns and poles for just
But the previous day we had met the crew from Ohms not Bombs who
had come all the way from Sydney with a mock up of a nuclear missile
on a roof rack. They had asked Peacebus to come to the action they
had planned Sunday 3 March at the food irradiation plant at Nagandra,
north of Caboolture.
Comrades on the road, they had helped Peacebus out when we hosted
the 2000 Sydney HEMP Olympix in Victoria Park Glebe, the weekend
before the Sydney Olympics. We wanted to return the favour and
thought we could do both gigs.
But Nagandra is 80 km south of Coolum and when we got there,
there was nothing to do but shelter from the rain, which bucketed
The protest site was a bare block in a new but undeveloped
industrial estate which this day was a rallying point for two
different groups of trail bike riders, and the odd V8 doing wheel
slides on the wet roads. No building had commenced. There was no
witness to our action, and no point in it apart from a site
I felt I was wasting time and petrol and became disheartened
about the idea of driving north again for another possible wash out.
So I rang, and with great misgivings, withdrew my commitment to the
Tickle Park lantern event.
Thinking it a good opportunity to give the young organiser of the
action experience in spruiking, I handed over the microphone to her
and we went in convoy, Peacebus and nuclear missile, Molly, Jolly
and Jennifer, and other vehicles back to Caboolture. She spruiked
outside the offices of the Caboolture Shire Council, which in
approving the development of the food irradiation plant, had
cynically redefined the meaning of their commitment to nuclear free.
Sunday, an empty building in an empty street. We decided to
continue on south and spruik anti nuke as we rolled through the
Brisbane CBD. We had no intentions and no expectations of seeing the
Queen. In fact we assumed she would have finished her public stuff
by the time we got there.
As serendipity would have it, our arrival in Brisbane was queenly
in timing. Mrs Elizabeth Windsor was in church in Ann Street and the
Brisbane police were on full alert for Peacebus. I had rung and told
Snr Sgt Gary Keillor of our change of plans.
The comedic equivalent of "Sink the Bismarck!” was in progress
when Peacebus rolled into Ann Street, and its crew oblivious.
The first to spot Peacebus in Brisbane was Johan, the driver of
Peacebus, who had been arrested the night before for trying to
present his personal petition to Her Majesty. Johan had been bailed,
returned to Brisbane and had been again picked up trying to get his
petition to the Queen via her Roller driver outside the church.
Johan was sitting in the back of an unmarked police car, at the
time listening to the police radio reports of Peacebus' progress.
But the reports were confused and inaccurate. Furthermore the
apprehending police didn't believe Johan when he said he was
Peacebus' driver. They had him down as a nutter. He is. A passionate
man of magnificent obsession. A Dutch Don Quixote.
Suddenly there was Peacebus driving beside him. Johan waved out
the window. The police did a double take, zoomed ahead, cut Peacebus
off, and escorted it to the car park out front of Old Government
House, by the Botanical Gardens, where I was waiting with Jennifer
So Peacebus didn't get to spruik anti nuke in Brisbane. But we
did get to see the Queen's motorcade again as it floated past 20
And we were reunited with our beloved Sir Johan, defender of the
colours and HEMP hero.
Many hugs and much laughter. Cops grinning too.
Then Max No Difference turned up too. Seems he had also gone to see the Queen.
When approached by a police officer while loitering about the church
he had explained that he had petition to present to the Queen. The
police officer went away and came back with another officer, one
from HM personal security, who graciously accepted Max’s pamphlet
urging Elizabeth Windsor to abdicate. Promised to pass it onto Her
Max was happy. The storm had passed. He respectfully acknowledged
‘my strong personality’.
It all felt like final act of a Shakespearian comedy. Everyone
united again, happy in his/her role. Free men and women in free
society outside Government House and the Queensland Parliament. The
curtain came down and we all went home.
Farewell to the Ohms not Bombs crew on their way back to Sydney.
More coffee and joints. More hugs. Farewell to Peacebus heading to
Byron. Me driving Johan home.
Johan had been the only arrest at CHOGM. He made national news
and was very happy. He told me Peacebus, by comparison, had been
ignored by the Brisbane news media.
He also told me that he decided that petitioning the Queen was a
waste of time. I am sure the Qld Police will be pleased to hear
this. No longer a royalist, Johan is cooking up other plans for
evoking global justice and environmental sanity. Secret at this
time. I wish him well.
For the first time I got to see Johan in his domestic context and
meet his partner Jan. Jan greeted Johan with bemusement and told him
of her mother’s call. Was it true Johan had been arrested again?
What a nightmare of a son in law Johan must seem.
But what a house! Johan is an obsessive collector of stuff. For
him all trash is treasure. The interior of the house is warren of
narrow passageways weaving between walls and columns of stuff
arranged in collections. There is an aesthetic in it, fancy
arrangements of this and that. But the overwhelming impression is
overwhelm. Everywhere stuff!
You name it and Johan has twenty of it at least. Stamps, cameras,
wrist watches, stones, sticks, and books. Walls and walls of books.
No theme in the collection that I could see at a glance. Some 7,000
he said and recently catalogued by Jan.
“I even collect broken bottles’, Johan said opening a draw.
Within was a collection of glass weathered and opalescent with age.
Johan picked up the neck of an old broken bottle. ‘You know”, he
mused. “No two pieces are ever alike.”
Two weeks previous Sir Johan had been busted for possession of
130 cannabis plants. A nosey building inspector irate about the slow
progress of the garage extension, had dobbed Johan in.
Seeds for peace, he had described the project. I had read an
email from him inviting interested parties to claim one of the seeds
and use the opportunity of his court appearance to spruik for peace
and cannabis law reform. Johan was disappointed to find that he was
not bowled over by the rush.
He took me outside and showed me the plot where the plants, some
two metres high, had been flourishing. The plot, about 2 foot by 8
foot, was covered with six inch high cannabis seedlings that he had
planted after the bust.
If ever there was a man with a mission! All hail his
But does it achieve anything? What is effective protest?
What is an effective action for peace and justice?
For all the effort and expenditure, what difference had Peacebus’
witness for peace at Coolum CHOGM made?
The bottom line answer is that I just don’t know.
I do not believe media attention is much a measure of success. TV
news is part of the problem. I don’t watch it anymore. Not watching
TV, I was able to see how fearful and dis-empowered my TV watching
friends became when swamped by the waves of media hysteria that
followed the fall of the New York World Trade Centre.
It is enough for me if just one person sees or hears Peacebus in
the street and is inspired to speak up for justice and peace. Many a
friend has thanked me for just that and I am grateful.
I would like to take some credit for the sea change in Queensland
police policy towards protest. But the truth is, I did no more than watch
and listen. The police made all the changes.
I expect there will be many like my Peacebus companions Sir Johan and Max
No Difference who will accuse me of
defusing the anti-globalisation movement in Brisbane.
But I never did think blockading CHOGM was a good idea. Any
meeting of world leaders, which takes place without the dominating
influence of the US, has to be welcomed as a possibility for peace
in these days of US tyranny and global belligerence.
If anti-globalisation is equated with confrontation, I plead
guilty for my efforts to sunder the relationship. I saw a lot of
young people hurt at the s11 blockade of the World Economic Forum in
Melbourne. Not necessary.
True the Coolum CHOGM demonstrations had neither the numbers nor the
defiant spirit of that action. But maybe something has shifted, gone
The Coolum CHOGM police security was overkill. Sixteen police
officers for every protester. There never was going to be a
bomber or a blockade. The planners had said they had to cover for
every possibility of post New York s11 unknown. But there are just galaxies
and galaxies, and galaxies of galaxies, of unknowns, infinite
possibilities for fearful imaginations.
Maybe more elegance is to be expected in security event
management next time.
On the other hand, I estimated that there are now at least 4,000
Queensland police officers familiar with the peaceful and quirky
ways of Peacebus and I feel good about that. Very, very secure.
In terms of police morale building and as an management training
exercise, CHOGM II security was a triumph. Police officers from all
round the state getting to meet and work with other.
Peacemaking, it seems. Demonstrating that democracy in Queensland
is strong and dissent, not feared or suppressed. But rather
celebrated. The cops felt good about that. Three cheers for the
But in the end I just don’t know.
One can never know all the consequences of one’s actions. Words
in passing heard by a child might give the birth to a culture hero,
who transforms the world for peace and prosperity. Or the same words
heard by another might provoke an outburst of violent paranoia.
I am sure I speak for all who have sailed
on Peacebus when I say that, in the confusion of events, with the
frailty of our minds and bodies, with our meagre resources, with
goodwill and open hearts, and in the face of the unknowable and
unsayable mysteries of life, we do best we can.
For peace! For justice! For the Earth!
“Inside me a hundred beings
are putting their fingers to their lips and
“That’s enough for now. Shhh!” Silence
is an ocean. Speech a river.
When the ocean is searching for you, don’t walk
to the language river. Listen to the ocean,
and bring your talky business
to an end.”
Rumi (12th century Persian
5-7 March 2002
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