Friday, September 07, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to APEC...

The Age

Tony Wright
September 8, 2007

THOSE naughty boys from The Chaser did a great deal more this week than humiliate a multimillion-dollar security apparatus. They put humour back into what had become a largely humourless business: protest.

They have, indeed, succeeded in challenging authority — the kernel of all protest — in a way that the thousands of citizens who will gather today in the streets of Sydney under the frightfully earnest Stop Bush Coalition banner could hardly dream of achieving.

Australian governments have spent close to $170 million to keep APEC leaders isolated from mere mortals on the basis that any one of them could be a terrorist.

There are about 3500 NSW police and 400 Australian Federal Police patrolling the streets, waters and skies of Sydney. Another 1500 military personnel, many of them armed to the teeth, are on the streets and perched on rooftops. This doesn't include the hundreds of security officials, Secret Service agents, bodyguards and assorted other tough guys who have flown in with the 21 APEC leaders.

The security operations are not limited to Sydney, either. As The Chaser team prepared its assault on Thursday, a swarm of police stopped and searched a convoy of mini-buses and cars at Tarcutta, half-way from Melbourne down the Hume Highway. The police reportedly said their task was "APEC-related". Those searched all happened to be members of the Socialist Party, bound for Sydney and, perhaps, mayhem.

The Socialist Party is one of a number of protest groups that have been involved for months in a weighty debate about whether today's big anti-Bush demonstration should be billed as "peaceful".

Security officials have been monitoring the debate — much of it played out on the internet. A sample from the group known as Resistance suggests just how humourless the protest movement has become. Perfectly straight-faced, two members of Resistance — an organisation that champions the right of Iraqis to kill Americans — posted a long discussion on the matter back in May, cogitating about how the Stop Bush collective could best "assert our right to protest in the context of a crackdown on civil liberties".

"A central debate in the collective has been around the question of whether we should explicitly publicise the protest as a peaceful demonstration," the Resistance authors declared.

The authors said members of the International Socialist Organisation and student-based left group Solidarity had stated they believed describing their protest as peaceful "would be to capitulate to the government and media fear campaign and exclude those who are planning to use other tactics at the protest.

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