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New radicalisation on display at fundraiser protest

  • 13 April 2016


The chants were thunderous and sustained, as the suited and elegantly coiffed guests began to arrive for the Liberal Party fundraiser at Docklands. Initially there did not seem to be a significant police presence, and it appeared that the need for security was not considered high.

I stood apart, with a group of 20 or so protestors bearing signs calling for the closure of Manus and Nauru. We were having trouble regarding the question of whether or not to join the 200 student protestors who were bellowing their own three-word slogans to the bewildered guests.

The noise built to a cacophony and our small group decided to remain apart, at the entrance to Central Pier.

As daylight was fading, the atmospherics grew darker. I am a veteran of many protests from the Vietnam war to the Franklyn River Blockade and many refugee rights and climate change demonstrations. However today the mounting tension in the air made me uneasy.

This was unlike any march of thousands, along sunny Melbourne streets, with goodwill and camaraderie in abundance. The shouts were about money, marginalisation and betrayal. These students were our discontented youth in the process of their own version of radicalisation.

The intensity levels rose, as startled guests arrived to be greeted with accusations of 'You are supporting child abusers' and 'F off you Liberal scum'.

Then police started running in pursuit of students as they swarmed towards the entrance. There were scuffles and I saw someone fall backwards down steps. My observation was limited by the recent loss of much of the vision of my left eye; but the mounting pressure was visible.

As the chanting rose to a crescendo, chaos ensued as protestors and panicked police rushed hither and thither. The mounted police arrived; but there seemed no plan of crowd control. It was a small protest but it was locked into a contained area with only one entrance.


"The education squeeze on the coming generations creates and increases disadvantage, and breeds disillusionment and anger. It does not foster a harmonious society."


It seemed the fundraisers and the diners had no idea that there might be an outburst of public rage, despite recent cuts to so many significant services. Perhaps it was a metaphor for Canberra's blind indifference to the growing gap between privilege and poverty.

The venue seemed ill chosen. On this day the students' indignation held sway. 'No hundred thousand dollar degrees.' 'No cuts to education.' Their chanting was operatic and movements