Monday, September 03, 2007

None but the brave protest Sydney APEC

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The Sydney APEC summit will gather many unpopular leaders, corporate resource pirates and war criminals and many are the issues of protest and many the protest groups: peace, social justice, workers rights and climate change.

Lame duck US president Bush will be hosted by lame duck Australian Prime Minister Howard, his partner in the so called Coalition of the Willing which launched the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Opinion polls predict a crushing defeat for Howard at the election he must face by the year's end.

But for all that, the number protesting in the streets of APEC ghost city is not expected to be large.

For Sydney APEC, the Socialist Alliance who are organising a Stop Bush rally on Saturday 8 September are expecting about 5,000. The Greens, who will be protesting climate change, nukes and coal exports, are expecting a mere 35. Ghost Dancers, maybe 200.

Compared to the 20,000 who participated in the anti-globalization protests which took place in response to the World Economic Forum in Melbourne in 2000, this is tiny.

These low expectations are because of an effective campaign of fear and intimidation that has been integral to the publicity in preparation for the summit.

"When APEC comes to town, it brings the War on Terror with it and sets about terrorizing the local citizenry," observes Ghost Dance organiser, Graeme Dunstan.

Night after night Australians have been subjected to images and stories of new riot gear for police, new laws that enable foreign nationals to bear arms and shoot to kill, of laws that allow police to prescribe known activists and restrict their access to public places, of the APEC fence and the partitioning of the city, of a newly acquired water cannon, of 30 new buses fitted out for holding and transferring prisoners and jails cleared to make room for them.

This massive security organisation is costing Australian taxpayers in excess of $AUS400 million and is being justified by inflated fears of violent protest.

The organisers of the protests deny any such violent intentions and say that the intelligence of police is based on dodgy reports from undercover agents, spies and agent provocateurs.

They say the huge scale security operations have become a self justifying industry for police and their suppliers and that the true intention is to roll back civil liberties and intimidate and suppress dissent.

"The advent of Sydney APEC is not a great day for liberal democracy in this land," said Dunstan.

Dunstan says that although the protests will be small they will be no less significant.

"The antidote for public fear is public courage," he says.

And already the fearless determination of the few is having its impact.

"As much as the APEC organisers might wish to sing of the benefits their meeting will bring to Sydney people and Australians generally, no one with eyes to see and ears to hear is buying the message," Dunstan said.

"Prime Minister Howard had hoped APEC would project him as a statesman of world influence and so boost his electoral chances, but the security overkill has added to the loathing the people have for him and now both his leadership and his neo-conservative government are dead in the water."

Such is the power of artful and peaceful witness.

Let the dead dance! More info at the Ghost Dance site.

Graeme Dunstan

Bellingen-Coffs activists and makers of picket signs and costumes, please contact Pip Wilson ASAP via this blog. We need more hands!

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