The Guardian September 13, 2000


Successful protest at World Economic Forum

by Andrew Jackson

An estimated 30,000 people surrounded Melbourne's Crown Casino on September 
11 making Day 1 of the blockade of the World Economic Forum a success.

Major disruptions to the Forum were reported, including a delayed start, 
missing speakers, and hundreds of delegates being turned away at the gates.

With many of the "World's 1000 Richest" delegates staying in the hotel at 
the complex, organisers knew it would be impossible to shut down the 
meeting entirely, but were extremely satisfied with the results of the day.

Protesters braved near-freezing temperatures, pounding rain, and gale force 
winds up to 85km per hour, with many sleeping outside the complex overnight 
to ensure success.

The police had erected three metre-high barricades of concrete and wire 
fencing around the sprawling casino complex the day before, which meant the 
dozen entrances that were left were easily cordonned off by the protesters.

Two thousand police were deployed on the day, mostly standing several deep 
across the entrances facing the people. There was also a large contingent 
of police on horseback which were used several times in charges against 
protesters.

An early attempt was made to break the blockade, with police trying to 
force protesters aside to let a bus filled with delegates through. Despite 
the violence used by police, the attempt was unsuccessful, with protesters 
cheering in victory as the bus turned away.

Several other attempts to break the blockade were thwarted quickly, police 
being forced to retreat by the protester's  numbers and determination.

Arrogance or stupidity?

In one of the more bizarre episodes of the day, West Australian Premier 
Richard Court drove up to the front entrance of the Casino and tried to run 
his car through the picket line.

The car was successfully blocked and, when he was recognised inside the 
car, it became instantly surrounded by hundreds of people, who took the 
opportunity for a face-to-face protest against WA's mandatory sentencing 
laws and black deaths in custody.

Premier Court was held in the car for over an hour, until the police 
charged through the crowd on foot and horse, beating demonstrators away 
from the car. In the ensuing melee several demonstrators were injured.

Many protesters were dumbfounded by the experience. Said one woman who was 
involved in the incident, "I can't believe his arrogance. He is one of the 
most reviled political leaders in this country. Why would he just drive up 
and deliver himself to the people who hate him the most?"

Senator Bob Brown, who was participating in the blockade stated that "other 
cars did three-point turns and left the scene. He [Court] was very 
provocative in pushing into the crowd. In the resultant police charge [a] 
young man had his face smashed and another had his wrist and hand trampled 
under a horse.

"All of this was totally unnecessary and would not have occurred if Premier 
Court had had the commonsense of other delegates being chauffeured to the 
meeting."

Non-Violent Direct Action

The afternoon edition of Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper arrived on 
the streets during the blockade. It falsely portrayed the blockade as 
violent and destructive, accusing protesters of attacking ambulance crews, 
casino staff and police horses.

Television news that evening also focused intensely on the two minor 
incidents mentioned earlier giving a deliberately false image of the 
protests.

In fact the S11 protest is an outstanding achievement of non-violent 
blockading. As thousands steadfastly linked arms across the entrances, tens 
of thousands of others swirled around the Casino on foot in a truly 
carnival atmosphere.

A sea of banners from every affiliated political group to "Grandmothers 
against Genetic Engineering" coloured the streets.

Bands played on the main stage and people in costume took to the streets to 
entertain the crowds. At the barricades protesters chanted, sang and played 
games.

Gabi Wynhausen, a union organiser from Sydney, achieved her goal of making 
the protest "peaceful and fun" by leading the picket line in dancing the 
can-can.

Regular Casino patrons were turned away from the entrances when it was 
explained the Casino would be closed for the next three days, and with a 
rousing rendition of the "Crown Casino Will Steal Your Money" song.

Casino Operations

An agreement between the Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Casino 
allowed Casino workers on night shift to be let out of the complex. Workers 
on shifts starting after the commencement of the blockade were expected to 
arrive by bus, and be let through if they had a Union delegate on board.

However, implementing a "No-one in, no-one out" policy towards Casino 
access, the demonstrators linked arms, and the blockade of the Casino was 
total. The Casino gaming areas were closed down in the afternoon and no 
further workers arrived.

Casino spokesman Gary O'Neill told the media that the Casino was a 
"reluctant participant" in the WEF, but were bullied into the job by former 
Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.

"Basically we were forced into accepting it." Crown Casino estimates is 
will lose up to $10 million over three days.

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