20th March 2014
It’s normal to start a story at the beginning. I’m going to start smack bang in the middle with this one, as it sums up one of the many factors which forced 100,000 plus people to MarchInMarch (MiM) around Australia.
I say forced intentionally. People don’t take to the streets in the numbers they did last weekend unless they feel their backs are against the wall.
Driving up the Hume after covering the Melbourne MiM I listened to ABC News Radio (ABCNewsRadio). News updates reported that thousands of people had marched around the country over the weekend. This was about the sum total of the reports. After a while my annoyance at this gross understatement got the better of me and I pulled over and sent the following tweet:
When I eventually got home on Tuesday after covering the Canberra MiM, I was told by a number of people that some of the TV news programs didn’t even mention the marches.
Australians planning to march looked on as the main stream media (MSM) mostly ignored MiM during its build up. Then, after bringing cities and towns across the nation to a standstill, tens of thousands of people were told via media silence that their opinion is irrelevant. If this MSM silence continues, independent media and bloggers will be handed a golden opportunity to grow and assist the MSM in its seemingly relentless push towards irrelevancy. Take note MSM: as you ignore the voices of the people, the people now have the tools and the skills to ignore you and make their voices heard without you.
#MarchInMarch was born from an idea expressed on Twitter by Mathew Doddrell (@mffyrg). He decided for personal reasons not to take the idea forward. Four other Twitter users took on the idea and nurtured it - @Sally_Owl , @j4gypsy, @forthleft and @ResignInShame. It then spread to Facebook and other social media, culminating in the massive demonstrations last weekend.
Tony Abbott’s refusal to acknowledge the Sydney march results from the same arrogance Sophie Mirabella displayed in refusing to acknowledge and act on the deep level of dissatisfaction within the Indi electorate before the last election.
There was a revolt against Mirabella’s combative style and her policy objectives which benefited only the political aspirations of herself and her party. If constituents didn’t agree with Sophie Mirabella, they were deemed wrong – and ignored.
Cathy McGowan (Indi’s new MP @indigocathy) offered the people of Indi a new way of doing politics. McGowan gave voters an opportunity to be part of an ongoing, respectful conversation about the direction Indi and Australia is heading. As a result when McGowan goes to Canberra, she takes with her the shared values of her constituents.
While most marched in March to express outrage at the policies of the Abbott government, it would be a mistake for the Shorten opposition to take much comfort in that fact. Many people expressed the view that they were equally upset with the ALP. People want politics to be an inclusive, respectful conversation, not a dog fight where participants are left mauled. Critically, people want to be heard by their media.
Could it be, that just like the people of Indi, voters across the country are looking for a new way of doing politics?
Last Sunday’s march in Melbourne had an amazing atmosphere – doctors, lawyers, unionists, taxi drivers, homeless, activists, environmentalists and multi generations of families all joining together to call for better government. As the speeches started the voice and data network ground to a halt. The crowd was obviously massive.
I asked a young policeman overseeing the crowd if he’d heard any estimates on the size of the crowd so far. “I have no idea where the crowd ends but the city is at a complete standstill for 5 blocks around the library”, he said.
With their vast array of pet issues, people marched side by side, bound together by the shared values of decency, compassion and fairness. People marched because they want Australia to be a compassionate nation they can feel proud of – and for their government to act in the best interests of all Australians, not just the few.
Grandmothers in wheelchairs demanded that their grandchildren are left some of Australia’s natural wealth before Gina sucks it all into her purse. In unison people yelled their disgust at our government terrorising refugees and making their corporate mates rich while doing so. People demanded real action on climate change.
Voters marched because they’re scared the TPP is an end game, handing areas of public policy over to multi-national corporations. Children beat drums calling for their educators to be valued enough to earn a decent wage.
People made the effort to get out on the streets to voice their anger at Murdoch’s media empire acting as a propaganda unit of the Liberal party. They voted with their feet to protect Medicare, our social welfare net and the Great Barrier Reef. Mothers laughed with joy while carrying daughters on their shoulders and fathers skipped with their sons at the front of the march.
A homeless man Bobby and his mate Buster marched because after 10 years of living on the street waiting for public housing they’ve had enough. He asked me to invite Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) to spend a night sleeping rough with him on the streets of Melbourne.
— Jansant (@Jansant) March 18, 2014
There was dancing, singing, chanting and laughter. Onlookers reading placards joined the march. I spoke with people who’d never marched before – and with a few for whom protesting is obviously a hobby.
This was the most unusual protest I’ve witnessed in my life. There was no anger, the crowd was massive and overcome by happiness. I suspect this was in part because contrary to what we’re told by media, people en masse suddenly discovered they’re not alone in their desire for better government, and their numbers are massive.
Police informed organisers the Melbourne crowd was 50,000 strong.
The Canberra MarchInMarch on Monday was a much more low key affair with estimates ranging between 700 -1500 people at its peak, but the point had well and truly been made over the weekend. People traveled from across Australia to be present when the Peoples Vote of No Confidence in the Abbott government was officially handed to Adam Bandt (@adambandt), who agreed to ensure delivery to both Houses of Parliament.
People gathered at the back of Old Parliament House for speeches and an open mic session for anybody who wished to tell the crowd why they had attended the rally. A grandmother wept as she pleaded for Australians to ensure Abbott’s government leaves a healthy environment for future generations.
People marched up the hill to the new Parliament House, led by the traditional owners of Yamaji country, who had traveled all the way from the Mid West Region of Western Australia.
Farmers for Climate Change Awareness travelled to Canberra in support of renewable energy and to ask that we leave coal seam gas in the ground.
A man carried a sign that said “News Corp will lie about this too”. Rupert and Gina were popular subjects all weekend. One protester in Canberra asked Gina to eat Tony, perhaps a finite resource the crowd was willing to exhaust.
A member of the CFMEU told the crowd he was proud to be part of a militant union protecting workers rights, and he would not give up the fight no matter what the Abbott government threw at him. Fr Rod Bower (@frbower) addressed the crowd, whilst another man moved through the protestors, denouncing Australia’s new oligarch. Again this was a diverse crowd of Australians who want change.
People seemed to express pride at the fact that the weekend of protests was almost entirely a product of social media, prompting one elderly man to wear his Twitter handle on a name tag for all to see.
— Jansant (@Jansant) March 17, 2014
One woman had a simple message for Tony Abbott.
Loz Lawrey was given the honour of handing Adam Bandt the Peoples Vote of No Confidence in Tony Abbott’s government on behalf of the 100,000 plus people who had taken to the streets of Australia.
The postponed Gold Coast MarchInMarch is on this Saturday.
While Tony Abbott and much of the main stream media tried to ignore the sound of 100,000 Australians taking to the streets, fellow citizens did not. A new MarchInMarch has sprung up for this weekend in the sleepy Northern NSW coastal town of Taree.
Perhaps organisers best start thinking about a name that rhymes with April.
Read More from the March In March Archive