"The whole world's watching!"
Rick Fowler, of the CFMEU, was a co-ordinator of the Sydney S11 Coalition which promoted opposition to the World Economic Forum, and organised transport and accommodation for over 500 activists from union, student, NGO, political and church groups to travel to Melbourne to join the demonstrations. His account of the last two days of the blockade highlights the provocative use of extreme power and force by the police to get delegates into the WEF conference. By Tuesday September 12 the police strategy of violence became very clear. I was at a protest point at five that morning, the crowd was smaller than the previous day and it became obvious people were going to turn up at a later time. At 7.30am the police attacked a group of about 100 protestors. The vast majority were sitting with their backs to the police and turned towards the horses. Approximately 250 police came charging out of the venue in riot gear wielding their batons. They charged into the crowd, standing on people's shoulders and heads. They hit anyone in range. A New Zealand Green politician was in the crowd and was bashed and injured. By the time I got there (I had been around the other side and had sprinted to the gate) the buses were in, with a large number of injured protestors laying on the ground with a variety of wounds, mostly to the head or ribs. All during the day the police were highly provocative with the show of massive force of riot squads, horses and dogs. They wanted protestors to fight back, BUT WE DID NOT ACCEPT THEIR PROVOCATION. We kept chanting "We are peaceful. You are violent", and reminded them "The whole world's watching!" The police again attacked the protest lines to get the delegates out of the conference that night, and again getting delegates in and out of the Crown Casino on Wednesday 13th. All the violence and force used by police was against protestors holding flowers. The courage and discipline shown by protesters in the face of the massive police assault was extraordinary. The Police continued to attack protestors even after their objective was achieved, and actively attacked anyone taking videos or photographs of their aggression. I saw numerous people being bashed with batons around the head, ribs and knees, BUT I DID NOT SEE ONE SINGLE PROTESTOR FIGHT BACK. In fact, many police charges were met with a shower of flowers. My fellow co-ordinators from Sydney and I spent hours attempting to assist the emotional scars that some of our younger protestors will carry for the rest of their lives. I personally am proud to have been a participant at WEF and S11, and again salute the courage shown by thousands of people facing baton and horse charges, especially the courage shown by young women and by the elderly. Our aims are simple, we demand respect for human rights, workers rights, civil rights, indigenous peoples rights and environmental protection. The people united will never be defeated. Good luck Prague.