Occupy Melbourne Update

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Despite setbacks and continuing police repression, Occupy Melbourne (OM) is continuing.

Since being evicted from City Square, the camp has moved to Treasury Gardens and then to Flagstaff Gardens.

OM has been in a daily cat-&-mouse battle with council authorities and police trying to steal their tents and evict them.

Initially, the move to Treasury Gardens (with the council imposing bans on tents & even signs and banners) led to an initial decline in the politics at the camp.

However, the erection of the Indigenous tent embassy (since stolen) & increasing willingness of campers to resist police has again re-introduced a necessary political edge to the Occupation.

Since the move to Flagstaff Gardens, the police and council officers have stepped things up a notch by stripping tents off Occupiers who have been dressed in tent costumes.

Many observers of occupy Melbourne have been horrified by the actions of the police. Occupy Melbourne had a very successful tent protest and march on Human Rights Day, of around 10 people dressed as tents with political slogans on them.

The civil rights/ free speech element is a very important part of OM at present as without being able to Occupy or raise a banner, further discussion of ideas becomes impossible.

OM's decision making body, the General Assembly (GA) has continued to meet twice a week.

GA’s have generally been well attended, with a layer of people coming to some if not all. The last major one at city square had around 116 people, others since have been smaller due to bad weather and the Christmas holiday period.

Discussion at recent GA's has focused on resistance to eviction as well as the development of a declaration of purpose for OM.

An initial Declaration has been released, there is also a second Alternative Declration under contruction.

The lack of any written material by OM has been a real weakness until now. Our SA statement has been useful in filling this void.

The successful picket at Laverton in November drew a significant section of unionists & leftists away from OM. When the picket began, most of the socialist groups started to pull out of active participation in Occupy Melbourne.

Rain has been a significant problem this month, with the Parents Working Group picnic having to be repeatedly postponed & the size of GA's suffering as a result.

Events:

The ongoing harassment of the camp has meant that there have been few organised events by OM of late, compared with the City Square Occupation that had a rally almost every day.

The major events organised by Occupy have been:

  • The Human Rights Day protest
  • An Evict Lord Mayor Robert Doyle action . This was initiated by the Indigenous Working Group and gained extra relevance as it came the day after the Indigenous Customs House was stolen from the camp by over 80 police. The rally had about 100 people there and got a positive reception.
  • A speak-out/mic check inside a Melbourne City Council meeting chaired by the Lord Mayor
  • A silent protest to greet the White Ribbon march because the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle had been invited to lead the march and be a White Ribbon ambassador, despite ordering the violent police eviction of Occupy Melbourne from City Square
  • Occupy held a banner to welcome the nurses’ march on 24 November
  • Occupy Melbourne spoke at and supported the recent Egypt solidarity rally.

Socialist Alliance role:

Socialist Alliance has continued to attend GA's & work within the Direct Action Working Group.

We have had to withdraw a permanent campaigning area at the Occupation & GA’s are the main arena for distribution of GLW and events.

We will have to keep re-assessing our involvement so as to not detract from other campaigns in the city.

The future:

OM will likely be affected by the summer shut-down. This also occurred in Spain, although it is worth noting that the Spanish occupations began again in late summer with renewed strength.

Already there is talk of beginning 'Occupy 2.0' to re-invigorate OM, but the finer details of what this means are still to be worked out in 2012. OM's ability to tie in with other campaigns in the city will likely determine it's longevity.