Thursday, November 23, 2006

What happened during the G20 - day 3

I got back to the embassy after the concert at about twelve thirty. There wasn't really any space left for me to lie down and go to sleep, so I just sat against the barricade. Ben turned up on his rollerblades, with two containers of rice that he'd cooked for us.
I ended up not actually sleeping, because there were so many people out.
Not long after I got there this drunk guy ran up to the barricade and started to climb over, and then jumped back down, and continued walking past, yelled a heap of abuse at us, and then got grabbed by the police and put in the back of a truck.
Another drunk guy came up to us, who I recognised from the U2 concert. He'd been standing just in front of us.
I said, 'Hey you were at the U2 show tonight, weren't ya? What'd you think?'
He said, 'Yeah, was good. Get a job ya f***in' hippy. Pay some tax.'
I told him that I already had a job and paid tax, but he was wandering off again.
We had a lot of people tell us to get jobs. Was talking to Ben about how it seemed as though people presumed that because you do something you strongly believe needs to be done, people presume that you're only doing it because you don't have a paid job, and therefore just don't have anything better to occupy your time. Also found it interesting that people think it's fine to abuse people that they believe to be unemployed.
We also had a lot of people come up to us because they genuinely wanted to talk to use and find out about why we were protesting. We had two Catholic students come up to us and say that we should've advertised what we were doing at the unis, because would've liked to have been involved. They asked wat I thought of Oscar Romero and liberation theology, and I said I didn't know much about Oscar Romero other than that he was assassinated by the Salvadoran government, but that I'd read a bit of Gustavo Guiterrez and liked what he had to say.
There were three Israeli backpackers who wanted to know where the protests had been, and whether there were any protests planned for Sunday. They asked if I was a student, and I said that I wasn't, and they asked what I did. I said that I did cleaning and I cooked food with people and did art with people and hung out with people, and explained what Credo and Urban Seed are like. Before they left one of them said, 'Isn't it great that two Jews and Muslim and a Christian can hang out and have a decent, civilised discussion?' Reminded me of the 'COEXIST' bandana that Bono used as a blindfold during 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'.
There was a couple who came up to us to ask us why we were protesting, because they didn't know very much about the G20 and wanted to find out a bit about it. I explained that the G20 was started after certain Asian and Latin American economies crashed in the '90s, so that the G8 countried could try to stablise the 'developing' economies that they depend on on for cheap resources and labour, so that their own economies would be safe as well. They said that they'd heard that the G20 were trying to alleviate poverty getting 'developing' countries to open up to foreign developers. This often means that people make more money, but also need more money. They go from having a subsistence economy, where they can produce everything they need themselves, or buy it locally, to being part of a global economy, where they are just producing masses and masses of the one item, and having to import everything else from far away. This is particularly a problem if they're producing a luxury item like coffee or tobacco. The fact that everything is produced a long way away also makes it a lot easier for companies to charge a lot more for a product than it costs them to produce the product.
Someone had a guitar, so Ben was playing it for a while, and one of the police asked if he took requests (they would've been pretty bored standing there all night), and he explained that he couldn't actually play any songs, he just made stuff up as he was going. And then he skated around in front of the barricade playing the guitar.
Later on we had a guy come to talk to us because he was offended that we had a cross and icons out in the street. For a long time he just kept saying, 'I'm mortally offended! How dare you? How dare you?' He eventually explained that he was offended because the cross and icons weren't made by someone who'd been ordained by the Roman Catholic Church. He also reckoned that you shouldn't mix religion and economics. There was another guy hanging around at that time who was a Pentecostal, and said that he could understand why he was offended, because he reckoned we looked like a cult, because we had a cross and icons, and some of us had been lighting candles earlier in the evening, to symbolise prayers.

He also reckoned we might be a cult because we looked like hippies. He said that he used to care about the environment and social justice too, but that was before he became a Christian. He said that now all that mattered was saving people's souls from Hell. He reckoned that we shouldn't protest, because converting people was more important. He reckoned we should just pray that God will change things. The Catholic guy also reckoned I wasn't a real Christian because I hadn't been baptised as a child.
At about five o'clock Ash woke up, and we watched the sun come up at five thirty. Then I went home to sleep for a few hours.
I didn't wake up until twelve. While I was asleep the police took the Credo cross away from the embassy, because they reckoned it could've been used as a missile. I think they underestimated how heavy it was, and how difficult a missile it would be to launch, because they gave it back again once they'd had enough of it.

(This is the same cross that Brent, Cookie and Jono stood with between the protesters and the mounted police during the World Economic Forum in 2000.)

When I got back to the embassy one of the protesters who'd been chanting the day before was there again, and some of the others from the embassy were chanting with him. There were also two elderly English ladies holding signs. We ended up having a discussion about the chanting, and decided to stop the chanting, because not all of us agreed with the chants, it didn't seem very peaceful, the police seemed fairly tense, and we'd found just being present and talking to people had been more productive.
We wrote a letter about why we were protesting, and when Peter Costello came down to the barricade to shake hands with the police (it was all set up for TV) we asked if he'd take it, but he ignored us. I suppose we weren't in his script.
At five o'clock I went up to the Baptist Church for their G20 church service, but I wasn't in there very long, because they guy running the service mentioned this guy called Simon who'd come in, asking for a Bible to read to the police, so I went out to see what he was doing. He was sitting on the trams tracks, against the Collins Street barricade, and screaming. I asked him what he was doing and he said he'd just arrived that day from the Gold Coast, and it'd taken him seven days to hitch to Melbourne, and he wanted me to scream at the police with him. I said I wasn't really into yelling at the cops, and told him about what we'd been doing at the embassy, and he said he'd come and join us later, if he could find us.
After the church service I went back to the embassy, and we ended the vigil with a shared meal. A lot of it was freegan stuff that the Jesus Christians had gathered.

We celebrated the eucharist using chocolate bars that the police had given us, and some cask wine. Afterwards with passed the peace with each other, the police and other activists who were still around.

I think that our public action was quite successful, in that we were able to have a good relationship with the police and with other protesters. I think we gained a lot of respect from other protesters (who are generally not too fond of Christians), particularly because we were there from Friday morning till Sunday evening. I think we were also able to get our message across fairly clearly, through the media and through direct conversations with people. Because we started on Friday we were able to actually talk about why we were protesting, which was good, because by lunchtime on Saturday all the mass media was interested in was violence.

Here's some of the media coverage we got:
'Christian pacifists demand tickets to G20' - Melbourne Indymedia
'Costello snubs Christian activists' - Melbourne Indymedia
'Christian protestors moved by police' - Melbourne Indymedia
'g20 vigil busted and moved' - Melbourne Indymedia
'Christian group in G20 tent vigil' - The Australian
'Christians, cheerleaders and lots of barricades' - The Age
'Christians kick off G20 protest' - Sydney Morning Herald
'Protesters pray ahead of G20 summit in Melbourne' - Reuters
'Protesters pray ahead of G20 summit in Melbourne' - oneindia
'JIHAD20' - Tim Blair
' 墨爾本: 廿國集團峰會墨市用鐵馬陣' - Singtao
'G20 Christians protest' - Herald Sun
'G20 Radical Christian response' - Crowlie
'More on the G20 Melbourne Christian collective' - Crowlie


Trav said...

what's the melbourne indymedia?

Christop said...

'Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth.'

It's basically a news website where anyone can contribute news that's going on in their local area.

Lis said...

Great article, Chris. I didn't realise you'd had Icons there. They're great for prayer and visualisation, eh? So much meaning, so many great stories.

Onya. Lis