Dr. Cam's Amazing G20 Report!
I wandered into the city on Friday morning to see if anything was going on. There was not much happening, no sir. Up by the Hyatt there was a small group of Christian anarchists who I'd heard about before. There was also a lot of media and a LOT of cops. I took a bunch of photos then walked down to Swanston. There was a whole bunch of Falun Gong people doing their thing. One of them explained how messed up the Chinese Govt is and I was like, "Dude, I know," and he was like, "It's pretty messed, bro." I took some photos of them kicking out some sweet ska tunes, and then I got hassled by the Man!
I was sitting down fiddling with my focus (my word!) when two cops came up to me .
"What are you taking photos of?"
"Because... it's a big weekend, you know."
"It seems like every time a pretty girl walks past, you're out Click Click Click."
"Show us what you've taken."
So I click the thing.
It's a picture of a tree. "Yep, there's a pretty tree."
It's a picture of the ground. "Yep, there's some pretty ground."
It's a picture of the cops who are hassling me. "Yep, there's some pretty girls, oh mama."
And then they left me alone. I was a bit cheeky, but they accused me of being a pervert so I feel justified.
This piece I wrote for Crikey pretty much sums up Saturday. I was pretty shocked when I got home to find out there had actually been a full-scale riot in the streets of Melbourne. Out of the the Age and the Herald Sun, the Herald Sun's reporting was certainly poorer, though the Age wasn't MUCH better. On TV I've only seen Ch 7's Sunday Sunrise coverage... I would contend that it was the worst journalism that I have ever, ever seen.
I had to cut about 500 words out of this to make the limit for publication - I'd chuck the original version up, but it seems too long-winded now:
On the ground at the G20 protests
By Cam Sexenheimer, riot reporter and campaigner with the anti-racism group Fight Dem Back
Halfway through the riot I began to worry that I'd never be able to write about it. It's not that I thought I was going to die out there on Russell Street â€“ it's just that the protest was quite lame. My fears were averted some hours later when I picked up the first editions to see that there had actually been total chaos on the streets as warriors of hate chased their slice of infamy.
The Herald managed to stretch the single exciting incident of an innocent divvie van having its windows knocked out across six pages. The Age had it on the front page. When I tried to take a photo I got a baton in the guts.
According to the Sun-Herald, we marched from the State Library up to Russell Street where a tense 15 minute stand-off ensued, then fled around the corner to converge on the police cordon from Collins Street.
I don't remember a tense stand-off, though I do recall standing around looking suave while some people drummed and chanted. "Do you want us to take over so you can have a bit of a rest?," I asked a friendly officer. He assured me that the current set-up would suffice.
We then ambled nonchalantly around to Collins Street to see how the State-smashing was progressing there â€“ ballerinas were dancing to NWA. On the corner of Flinders Lane and Exhibition the aforementioned truck was moved back down the lane, looking decidedly worse for wear.
The mother of a toddler asked the riot squad if they would hurt her child. "It's your f-cking choice, lady" explained a helpful officer. She remarked that all involved had a choice, but decided to retreat with child to safer ground. We had a chat with one of the riot squad about whether he was being paid extra for donning all the gear. He wasn't, but still didn't feel it was appropriate to join the protest.
The police retreated down the lane. Some young ruffians remarked upon the shades of defunct currencies and one bloke was arrested when he scaled a fence for reasons unknown. One of us got a bloody nose when pushed into police by snappers and we decided to head back up to Collins Street. Our path was blocked by another line. "Can we come through?" asked one scallywag. We were told to exit at Flinders Street. "That's a long way," I interjected, "You need to understand that as protesters we are inherently lazy."
Moments later bottles began to smash around us and we decided to leave. Our path was blocked by more riot police who had made a new line behind us. I was told to "GET BACK!" "They said we had to come through here," I informed him. "F-ck off," he replied. About an hour after The Age reported the protest was broken up, we headed home.
All in all, Christine Nixon's professional agitators from Europe didn't do a very good job and the sinister anarchist cabal who funded their airfares should demand their money back. The opportunity for real chaos was present but not exploited â€“ the police constantly left large gaps in their lines and were surprised on a number of occasions to find people on the wrong side of them: on one occasion naive pedestrians wandered up an alley and had been standing outside the "secret" command central for a while when they were finally noticed.
No apparent plan was in place in the event that the protesters turned heel and began to smash up the Bourke Street Mall (where shopping continued unabated), nor was anyone posted in the empty Collins Street Plaza, the perfect location for serious rioters to take the back of two of the police lines by complete surprise. The fact that the Red Army didn't storm the Hyatt and bring Peter Costello's head out on a pike had less to do with flawless policing and more to do with a largely benign and disorganised crowd.