Now that the dust has settled, the spittle has been wiped away and the capsicum foam washed from tear-stained eyes, it’s time to ask the question: who was responsible for the attempted illegal blockade of the IMARC mining conference? Who were the organisers of the mayhem in central Melbourne?
In late July, Socialist Alternative organiser Sarah Garnham made an announcement in Red Flag magazine, calling for the shutting down of what she called “a meeting of the most insidious and powerful climate vandals and human rights abusers on the planet”. Garnham described the attendees of the conference as “not only responsible for environmentally destructive extraction but also land theft, genocide and imperialism.” Garnham called for “tens of thousands of participants” to illegally shut down the event through force of numbers.
On the 29th of July, Socialist Alternative organiser Anneke d’Emanuele shepherded a motion through the University of Melbourne Student Union, supporting the proposed IMARC blockade and offering student union funding to help support it.
On the first of August, Garnham, as the representative of the organisers of the protest, spoke to the Herald Sun where she called for a re-enactment of the S11 riots that occurred outside Crown Casino in 2000.
On the 13th of August, now disgraced Marxist councillor Stephen Jolly organised a motion proposing that Yarra Council support the proposed riot. Stephen Jolly has been a Trotskyist activist since before he moved to Australia in the late eighties. The Councillor’s son, Oscar Jolly, is currently attending ANU and has been one of the organisers of Extinction Rebellion events in Canberra, in coordination with Socialist Alternative ANU organiser Kim Stern. Oscar took some credit for gaining the support of his father and the council.
On the first of September at a meeting in Trades Hall, the blockade organisers were informed that Socialist Alternative industrial organiser and co-founder Jerome Small had put $1,600 of his own money to fund the printing of 10,000 posters advertising the blockade. Socialist Alternative organiser Ridah Hassan was put in charge of coordinating groups to put the posters up. Ridah’s brother Omar Hassan, who joined Socialist Alternative in late 2007 and is now editor of its theoretical magazine Marxist Left Review, was placed (along with Jerome Small) in charge of the “Outreach, Media and Promotions” working group. Jacob Andrewartha of Socialist Alliance (now famous thanks to his train wreck interview with Andrew Bolt) was also allowed to tag along on Omar’s coattails.
On the 11th of September, Councillor Sue Bolton of the Socialist Alliance moved a motion on Moreland City council to support the riot. Ms Bolton also had a motion passed offering council property for free to the organisers of any Extinction Rebellion or IMARC protests.
On the 15th of September, at their fortnightly organising meeting at RMIT university, the organisers of the IMARC riot decided to try and reach out to noted anarchist celebrity Noam Chomsky to try and get an endorsement (he didn’t respond). They also discussed inviting a “sympathetic” journalist they knew from The Age to come and watch their next meeting. Cathy Lewis of Socialist Alternative and Lucho Riquelme of the Socialist Alliance front group, the “Latin American Solidarity Network”, were elected treasurers.
Also on the 15th of September, Socialist Alternative organiser Emma Black spoke to the Socialist Alliance newspaper Green Left Weekly as a “Blockade IMARC Alliance spokesperson”. She declared that: “We’re planning mass civil disobedience on a scale that hasn’t been seen in Melbourne in decades… At the S11 protests in 2000, thousands turned out to shut down corporate criminals. We’re hoping for the same response for this urgent protest.”
At the 29th of September organising meeting, Cathy Lewis and Kath Larkin of Socialist Alternative and anarchist Edward Plowman of the Industrial Workers of the World (yes they do still exist) were elected communications representatives. Jerome Small reported on his discussions with the Victorian Trades Hall Council, which had also agreed to help support the blockade.
At the 13th of October organising meeting, the optimism of the early days had withered, perhaps due to the split between Socialist Alternative and the more moderate factions of Extinction Rebellion. The predictions of attendance at the event were now down to under 1,000 (on the day, they only got 300-400). Perhaps in desperation, the organising groups discussed creating fake news online to try and create disruption and publicity.
On the 27th of October, the first of the protests began when a hundred protesters, led by Socialist Alternative members including Chris Di Pasquale and Michael Roberts, marched down Collins Street under a sea of red flags and blocked traffic. In the next few days of blockading outside the exhibition centre, news footage showed Kim Stern, Natalie Acreman, Jerome Small, Emma Black and Elliot Downes of Socialist Alternative prominent in the confrontations with police. Jacob Andrewartha and other members of the Socialist Alliance were also present, as were Anthony Main and other members of the (now tiny) Socialist Party, a medley of local anarchists, and other loosely affiliated left-wing extremists. But the dominant factor, both in numbers and in organisation, was Socialist Alternative. It was their chosen spokeswoman, Emma Black, who became the face of the protests and their activists on the ground calling the shots. The other extremist groups and individuals were merely swimming along in their wake. They were the organisers, everyone else was making up the numbers.
So a riot was organised in the centre of Melbourne to try and shut down a mining conference. The result was violence, which the clueless media inevitably blamed on Victoria Police. Aside from one notable exception, not a single journalist bothered to point out that the people attacking police, spitting on attendees and trying to illegally blockade a building were revolutionary Marxists.
As has been pointed out numerous times on The Unshackled, the members of Socialist Alternative are not normal political actors and should not be considered as such. Their ultimate goal is to overthrow the government and implement a totalitarian state. They believe that Australia is an illegitimate social construct built on capitalist exploitation and wish nothing more than to see it destroyed.
They don’t hide their views or affiliations. While being interviewed by Sunrise on Channel 7, Emma Black was wearing a T-shirt prominently displaying the logo of the Socialist Alternative electoral front the “Victorian Socialists”.
The Unshackled predicted months ago that the media would ignore the extremist affiliations of the rioters and would instead try and blame the police. Sadly, that prediction has come true. The main reason Socialist Alternative and other extremist groups have such impunity to break the law at will is because the media continually refuse to point out who these people are and what they believe. That’s why it’s up to us to share the message. They can’t keep getting away with it. And for our country’s sake, we can’t let them.
In this WilmsFront feature from Friday night’s live show, I offer further analysis from last week’s failed blockade.