[LINK] [OT] Peace Rally Sunday 16 Feb BRISBANE

Russell Ashdown russell@ashdown.net.au
Sun, 16 Feb 2003 20:15:18 +1000

[LINK] [OT] Peace Rally Sunday 16 Feb BRISBANE

> First, I want to apologise in advance to anyone who takes offence to
> my posting a notice of the Brisbane Peace Rally this Sunday. 

Thank you to all the Linkers who showed such support for my post 
last Friday.  I want everyone to know that all off-link emails received 
by me on this issue were supportive and to date not one single 
flame has been received.

The purpose of this post is to give Linkers an abbreviated first-hand 
account of the Brisbane rally.

On the drive into Brisbane, we noticed that the South Eastern 
Freeway was carrying heavier than normal traffic going in to the city 
which is unusual for a Sunday in Brisbane, and I was glad that we 
had decided to leave early.

Deciding to park the car close to the end-point of the march, we 
walked toward the Roma Street Gardens and were amazed to see 
just how many families were also heading toward the start point of 
the rally (I identified them by the home-made signs and banners 
they were carrying - or fabricating in the Queen Street mall)  

On arrival at Roma Street, I was disappointed at the turnout.  There 
was a crowd of only one or two thousand milling around.  But we 
were early.  There was another hour to go before eleven o'clock, so 
we sat down under a tree and chatted to the people around us.  
Interestingly, these people were mostly professionals or recently 
retired.  Not what you would normally expect at a rally such as this.  
Some had travelled from as far away as Toowoomba, Surfers and 
the Sunshine Coast for this rally, and all thought that the 
government's proposal for war was "immoral" and "just plain wrong 
headed".  Other viewpoints were that the war "...is just about the US 
getting it's hands on the oil"; and "...I just don't see the justification 
for war"; to "...but why did he (Howard) have to send our troops?"  

By the time the announcements started, the crowd had swelled to 
overflow the gardens and had spilled out into Roma Street, stopping 
traffic.  At this stage, I knew this was going to be a record 
demonstration for Brisbane.

Soon, the announcement was made to start the march "We are 
going to have to start the march early because of the number of 
people..." the speaker said.  "Please move onto the road and along 
Roma Street."

Well, that was easier said than done.  It took our group fifteen 
minutes to move the thirty feet to Roma Street proper, and in the 
milling crowd we lost contact with two of our family.  Luckily, we had 
mobile phones, and we soon established that we were separated by 
about a hundred yards.

The crowd was at all times orderly and good humoured, chanting 
the usual chants and breaking into high spirits, singing along to "War 
- What is it good for!" being played on a "boom-box" carried by a 
young chap in the crowd, and at other times singing in sombre mood 
to John Lennon's "Give peace a chance".  And the police presence 
was subdued.  Strange for Brisbane where one has constant 
flashbacks to the Joh era of police confrontation against peaceful 

Along Roma Street, past the Town Hall, Left into Adelaide, right into 
Edward and when the march got to Alice Street (outside the 
Botanical Gardens), some confusion reigned, with the march 
splitting as some continued, turning right into Alice while others went 
straight and entered the Botanical Gardens.

On the march through the streets of Brisbane, I noticed people 
representing almost every demographic in Australian society.  There 
were people in wheelchairs, people on crutches, an older lady 
walking slowly with the aid of a walking stick and amazingly, two 
older ladies pulling an older gentleman along in a "walker".  There 
were many family groups, along with a smattering of "the usual 
suspects" Unionists with union banners (seemingly out of place), 
political parties and student groups.  But overwhelmingly, this day 
was a day that the families of Brisbane came out to have their say 
against this unjustified war.  

The only time I saw any disharmony in the crowd, was at the River 
Stage (the end point of the rally) where Simon Crean attempted to 
make an obscure political point that war would only be justified if the 
UN sanctioned it.  He was almost howled off the stage and he then 
became subdued and left the stage soon after, having lost the good 
will of the crowd.  On the other hand, Jim Soorley (Brisbane's Lord 
Mayor) held the multitude in his hand.  They hung on his every 
word.  I guess some have the feel for public speaking while others 
will struggle.

In conclusion, after today's experience, I can't for the life of me see 
how this government can sustain it's arrogant pro-war stance after 
such an overwhelming turnout of Australia's citizens.  But, alas, I 
fear it will...

Russell Ashdown