Reigning in the Parade: Sydney's APEC lockdown

REPORTER: Mark Davis

As most of Sydney starts to shut down for APEC, things are starting to hot up at an activist centre in inner-city Chippendale.

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It's a week before George Bush arrives and Alex Bainbridge is in charge of the welcoming committee.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE, STOP BUSH COALITION: So we're looking for a sound system for about 5,000 people.

Bainbridge is one of the key figures in The Stop Bush Coalition which is trying to organise a mass demonstration in Sydney next Saturday. Just up the road at Sydney University, anti-war activist Paddy Gibson seems equally determined to be heard during APEC. I spent a few days with Paddy, Alex and other key protest leaders as they struggle to keep their demonstration on track and themselves out of court. It's a week that sees the police unveil not only a new arsenal of hardware to deal with protesters but a new arsenal of some rather extraordinary laws as well.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Never before can I think of any demonstration where there’s been such a campaign of intimidation against it coming from the government and police. I think that means they are feeling vulnerable.

UTS, another inner-city campus, serves as the meeting ground for the various individuals and groups that have come together to oppose APEC, the war, John Howard and George Bush. Unionists, students, greens, anti-nuclear and peace activists have merged their various interests around the APEC hook.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Should have a local Aboriginal person to welcome.

It would seem there may be other eyes and ears in this room as well. In recent days it has been revealed that police have been secretly monitoring meetings like these at UTS and Sydney University for months.

PADDY GIBSON, ACTIVIST: Someone from the Civil Liberties Council said they'd do it, right?

As Paddy will discover in a few days time, organisers like him have been among those targeted.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: The police horses have the unfortunately got the flu and won’t be available to used to be used during the APEC protest. The horses have the flu and won't be available to the APEC protest. It is therefore difficult for us to describe how generally remorse for we are about that situation. So I guess the first thing is we'll see what their response is to ours.

Alex Bainbridge is on his way to a meeting with the police to advise them of the route of Saturday's march. The group has rejected police plans to direct the march through the back of the city.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: The point of having a protest is to be seen and to be heard, so we want to march through the city. Even though with APEC it's going to be quieter than normal, there will still be people around. And, I mean, one of the aspects of our route is that it does go past the US Consulate, and we want to take advantage of that symbolic location to have a speaker or two outside the consulate.

REPORTER: A speaker or two? But it's going to be pretty big trouble outside the US Consulate isn't it, if the message is stop Bush?

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: No, it's going to be in Martin Place. There's no traffic disruption at all there. The consulate itself is up, I don't know how high, maybe the 20th floor of the building.

REPORTER: They want to keep you away from that, right?

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Realistically there'd be no security risk from their point of view at all. None whatsoever.

REPORTER: Are you sure?

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Yeah, I'm positive.

It's the fourth meeting Alex has had with police in the past month. With transport, PAs, wardens and medics to be organised, today is the last chance to settle on the route for the march. After an hour of discussion, Alex can't persuade police to approve the route.

REPORTER: They're still saying you can take Route B if you want it.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Route B in the back hills is on the table, yes. From their point of view it is but we've made it clear that's not really acceptable to us.

Word soon gets around of the police rejecting the proposed rally, and Paddy Gibson hits the road.

REPORTER: So where are you off to?

PADDY GIBSON: Going to the Police Minister's office to have a protest outside there, we've got a right to protest anywhere in this city, so we're going to tell them that.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: The reason we have called this conference today because we want to protest what seems to be a blanket ban by the state government on protests.

The Greens Party has come out to back The Stop Bush Coalition and to condemn the police.

SILVIA HALE, GREENS MP: The only response we've had from the police is to talk about their water cannon, to talk about their mobile prison cells, to talk about violence. Indeed the only talk about violence has come from the Prime Minister, it has come from the Premier and it has come from the police themselves.

Whether the police are getting ready to hit hard or not, they certainly have some surprising legal batons up their sleeves. It has just been leaked to some journalists that a list of prohibited persons is about to be issued, excluding them from large parts of Sydney, the airport and even Bondi Beach.

KERRY NETTLES, GREENS MP: I've asked questions to the Prime Minister about whether I'm on the blacklist. I don't know, haven't heard anything from the police today. But I think it's important to recognise this blacklist has been drawn up with no regard to the courts.

I couldn't resist pointing to Paddy as the mysterious blacklist was discussed.

REPORTER: You're on that list.

PADDY GIBSON: Could be.

But my joke and the ensuing street theatre turned out to be remarkably prescient. The next day Paddy was listed as an “excluded person” along with 29 others. Saturday night, Sydney airport. Two activists are returning from Melbourne having just been served their exclusion papers. It's a tense moment.

REPORTER: So were you expecting a reception committee?

SUNIL MENON: We weren't sure what to expect. We weren't sure what to expect.

Sunil Menon and Dan Jones risk being taken into custody. They're nervous about who could be here to meet them.

REPORTER: But technically the airport is one of the prohibited zones?

DAN JONES: Yeah, but at the moment we don't talk too loudly about that.

REPORTER: Until you're out.

DAN JONES: Until we're out of here. We can talk about it at the taxi rank.

Luckily there's a welcome committee of only one, Lou Thatcher, a Sydney activist involved in the anti-APEC protests.

DAN JONES: We're going to go home and have a talk with everybody who's been excluded in Sydney, and think about what we're going to say to the media tomorrow.

REPORTER: How many Sydneysiders?

DAN JONES: I think there's 5. 5 for 5,000 police!

REPORTER: Well, frankly it's very serious slur on you, you are amongst the most 30 dangerous people in Australia presumably.

DAN JONES: It's ridiculous because of the arbitrary nature of it, we can't challenge this in the court. It's a decision of the police commissioner. I have no priors on me at all and even if I did, we should still have the right to partake in a demonstration.

As the men contemplate their next move, Lou has some plans of her own. Lou is part of an anarchist collective which is organising a meeting or 'convergence' in Sydney this week.

LOU THATCHER: A convergence space or a convergence centre is a space where people coming to the protest can come together.

They are calling their event Flare in the Void.

LOU THATCHER: There's gonna be spaces for affinity groups to meet and talk about their plans for the different days of protest there is going to be direct action workshops, which is an attempt for people to learn how to work together, basically how to look after each other.

Although they have avoided any mainstream publicity, their event has attracted excited comments from the police commissioner and is believed to be attracting hundreds of anarchists from around Australia.

REPORTER: There's lots of names going round in the press..there’s Mutiny, AC/DC, all coming to cause trouble.

KYLIE: I think that the only trouble that's going to be caused is police, State, shutting down city, bringing in the military, like their the ones that are going to be causing the farce, there’s no one else that is going to cause it but them.

REPORTER: Well these are the scenarios that have been talked about of course, the Chaney visit, the G20 demonstrations, boundaries will be set and have been set, is it appropriate to push those boundaries in this event?

LOU THATCHER: I think we have to defy the clampdown.

REPORTER: What does that mean?

LOU THATCHER: It means there's a whole lot of ways that that could happen.

KYLIE: There's a whole lot of ways that people could choose to resist that.

At the time of this interview, three of these women – Annika, Carly and Lou had no idea they were about to be added to the police exclusion list. Late last night they became presumably the 31st, 32nd and 33rd most dangerous people in Sydney.

LOU THATCHER: It's not a surprise who's on the list. It's not really a surprise that this list finally came out. People were speculating as to whether they'd even announce it because it's basically an invitation to civil disobedience. It's an invitation to see we know who's on your really stupid list with your really stupid laws and I'm going to set foot into that zone because your laws are so stupid. The way that you defeat an unjust law is to break it because it deserves to be broken, and so..

REPORTER: They're asking for trouble with this list in itself. So you think some people will cross and a lot of people will support them?

LOU THATCHER: I think so. There is massive support for opposing the legitimacy of the list.

Even with a few dozen excluded from attending, the main show goes on. But yesterday the police executed another legal manoeuvre seeking to declare the entire rally illegal with an injunction in the Supreme Court.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Obviously I feel very strongly about the question of democratic rights, and I think there should not be obstacles put in place to prevent us from having a peaceful protest, in a democracy they should be allowed to take place.

REPORTER: In a democracy if the court supports the police, what do you do then?

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: Well, with all due respect to the Supreme Court, our protest will be going ahead on Saturday.

Paddy and Dan have just met a lawyer to find out what could happen to them if they march. But it's not the only counsel they have been seeking.

REPORTER: So what are your mums and dads saying?

DAN JONES: Mum's like, “Dan, we're going to APEC but you can't.”

Paddy is determined to take on the law but Dan is still undecided.

DAN JONES: I should be marching down the street, anybody should be able to do that. But I'm just going to do the weighing up of the situation. I might get the fuck out of there, because this is police state stuff.

REPORTER: And so you're still unsure whether you'll do it?

DAN JONES: Yeah, I'm unsure. Yeah, but it's just ridiculous because all I was going to do was walk down the street anyway.

ALEX BAINBRIDGE: The police have taken us to court, taken The Stop Bush Coalition to court, to try and put obstacles in the way of the rally on Saturday from occurring.

Earlier today, police succeeded in gaining an injunction against the proposed rally.

DAN JONES: Hello, my name is Dan Jones, and I'm an excluded person.

Dan and Paddy launched a Supreme Court action of their own this afternoon, challenging the court constitutional validity of the exclusion orders.

DAN JONES: And I urge every ordinary Australian out there, the Australian that opposes the Iraq war, to be on the streets.

The battle lines for Saturday are now being drawn. Not just Dan but each protester will need to decide whether to cross them.

Reporter/Camera

MARK DAVIS

Production Assistant

YAARA BOU MELHEM

Editors

WAYNE LOVE

NICK O’BRIEN