- by Valentin Cartillier
- The Guardian
- Issue #2026
On 22nd September, thousands of people took to the streets in protest across the country under the banner of “Abolish the monarchy.” These rallies were organised by various Indigenous activists and organisations. The day was marked as a one-off public holiday, designated as a “Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II.” The contradictions in the concept of a “day of mourning” was taken up immediately by a speaker at the Naarm (Melbourne) rally, demanding to know:
“Where is the day of mourning for indigenous deaths in custody?” When is our day of mourning for “loss of our land, the destruction of sacred sites?” When have we ever had a single day of mourning for the “indigenous women and children murdered and missing?”
One of the central themes of the speeches was that the Monarch is the ultimate symbol of the theft of indigenous lands and that “Elizabeth was the longest reigning thief.” To replace one monarch with another does nothing to change the ongoing settler colonial oppression that Australia was founded on. The speakers pointed out that the lowering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to half-mast across the country was one particularly symbolic act of disrespect towards Indigenous people. There was little to no consultation on even such basic topics.
Members from CPA branches nationwide acted as marshals while others marched in solidarity with the protestors. In Naarm, the marshals expertly and efficiently manoeuvred parts of the crowd to form a line to protect the protest from a counter-protest, ensuring the smooth continuation of the event. One passer-by, seemingly perplexed, commented to a police officer upon observing the human wall set up by protestors to protect the event from a counter rally, “they’re all egalitarians at the end of the day, fighting for individual rights, I don’t understand why they’re butting heads like this.” The spectator could could be forgiven for thinking it was all a single anti-Monarchist cause, indeed, that’s clearly what the counter protestors thought as they cried out over a megaphone “we are not your enemies, we’re on your side” from hundreds of metres away.
However, given the fact that they had taken the pains to organise their own separate protest rather than join the existing “Abolish the monarchy” one, and that their protest ended in a brawl with police once they had attempted to outflank the defensive lines set up by the rally, it is not difficult to surmise that they had fundamentally different political ideas at heart. Their version of anti-Monarchism clearly had an antagonistic, not collaborative, approach to indigenous issues, evidenced in their acts of aggression and not by the empty words of peace shouted into a megaphone.
A comrade in South Australia was temporarily arrested for writing “abolish the monarchy” in the Queen’s commemoration book (report on page five). Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) put out a media release prior to the march outlining a list of demands which included the return of Land to its rightful sovereign owners, an end to Deaths in Custody, and justice for affected families, reparations for all peoples affected by British colonialism, and more. Indigenous activists covered the Australian flag in red paint to symbolise their ongoing oppression, they held their red hands to the skies to represent the blood spilt, and to remind the ongoing Australian settler colonial project that it has blood on its hands. Protestors were later asked to lie down during a minute’s silence to physically represent the hundreds of indigenous deaths in custody.
One of the speakers at the Naarm rally amused the crowd by referring to “notable aboriginal philosopher Mao Zedong” and his quote “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” They went on to say that every single person is that spark that can start that prairie fire, that every single person has a role to play in the struggle for Indigenous rights. This time paraphrasing Mao, the speaker urged that, to undertake this struggle, one must “first and foremost educate yourself and then educate the people around you.”
The struggle for the sovereignty of Australia cannot be realised without the struggle for indigenous self-determination. The struggle against capitalism cannot be fully understood without understanding that it is a struggle over land, the stolen lands of indigenous people and that colonialism in this country never stopped. It is an ongoing process that cannot be pushed to the margins of the working-class struggle.