Meeting of minds at Port Macquarie #MarchInMarch attracts a drone @deanhepburn reports


By Dean Hepburn  @deanhepburn

March 17th 2014

The drone flying over the March in March protest at Port Macquarie was an ominous portent of the direction the Abbott Government is fast taking Australia. Everyone marching was observed to look at it and smile, as though they felt Big Brother was watching over their shoulder. Despite it, they continued to march.

The friendliness and camaraderie throughout the march, combined with the diversity of social groups and personal interests, made for a cosmopolitan meeting of minds and mates.

About 500 people turned up at Port Macquarie, a sleepy, traditionally conservative city, to express their shared despair at the policy direction of their newly-elected Abbott federal government. Considering the event was not advertised or presented much in local media, it’s astoninshing that so many people turned up. Social media and word of mouth was the way people discovered the event was in the pipeline.

We met at Westport Park at 9.30am, where the numbers were estimated at 300-400, however, by the time we ended the march at Town Green, another 100 or more had joined.

March organisers confronted a stone wall at council. They attempted to book the park for the protest but were told it would take a month to approve, and were informed that police would be attending in case it looked like someone would attempt to speak via a megaphone. There were probably a few police in plain clothes amongst that group, waiting and watching … and probably taking names and photos.

The friendliness and camaraderie throughout the march, combined with the diversity of social groups and personal interests, made for a cosmopolitan meeting of minds and mates. Children held placards and wore shirts about social issues, from public healthcare and education to environmental issues such as coal seam gas and climate change. Retirees, parents, university students and workers joined in the common cause.

At most protests, media is typically everywhere as they attempt to fill their pages and screens with succinct imagery. The regional March in March protests are very notable for the absence of media cameras and journalists. Indeed, protesters themselves took the photos, and I wrote this article without any journalism background. It’s all we can do to get a community’s story out to that community. It seems the mainstream media is no longer mainstream.

Only at Town Green did people, everyday people, emerge to speak their mind. People spoke about climate change; a teacher spoke about Gonski; a father of a disabled woman expressed disgust at how the Abbott Government is undermining the National Disability Insurance Scheme; a former journalist expressed outrage at the proposed changes to cross media ownership; a uni student talked about the destruction of Medicare; and others spoke about the destruction of legal aid, and treatment of asylum seekers etcetera. The list of repressive, antisocial and anti-environment policy directions appears endless, but it is sadly growing every day.

After about a dozen people had the courage to get up and speak their mind, the march ended. People broke up into groups to discuss the event further and started to go home. A question asked to the march organiser was crucial: “What can we do now?”. While the organiser had no immediate response, the correct thing to do now is to continue becoming informed whilst informing your friends. The next march (don’t know when) will be a great opportunity to invite your friends and get them actively involved in Australian political processes.

If you’re feeling passionate and enthusiastic, No Fibs offers everyday citizens the opportunity to fill the gap fast being abandoned by mainstream media.

As Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. In this case you have chosen the side of the Abbott Government, which has more in common with the drone – sold to the highest bidder, devoid of humanity and running to the commands of its master.

Margo’s Tweets from the March

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  1. Great precis of yesterday’s march in Port Macquarie Dean…. get the feeling this is just the start of something big.

  2. The Port Macquarie march sounds like it was more successful for getting people talking and connecting than the Armidale march. Of course we didn’t have police or a drone either. I wrote up my experience on my blog: