By John O’ Driscoll
Each night a small contingent doggedly remain under constant police surveillance. A disparate group – pensioners, students, bushies, Koories from the tent embassies, the odd other longtime activist, and some new-minted. Early in the evening there are more of us, the busker on his motor-wheely treating us to Neil Diamond covers, a Kevin Rudd lookalike with an obsessive’s knowledge of corruption and financial crimes. For a minute I thought it WAS Kevin Rudd, taking the piss, like he does with Hilary Clinton. It couldn’t be: wasn’t he at APEC? A congenial crowd, gathered in the square, discussing, illustrating and attempting to define the big problems we face, stripped of ideology.
Later, we thin out to the eight or so doing the graveyard shift. The (non-riot squad) police themselves are generally good-humoured, if a bit wooden. They’re ‘just following orders’. When asked if they know why we are here, one rolls his eyes, ‘oh yeah’. Their area commander knows all about it too, and has ‘an intent’ for them to be here, making sure we don’t get comfortable. And the Area commander has been hearing a lot about it from on high. They’d seen surveillance of us sleeping. We’d have to move any sleeping gear, no ifs, no buts.
And of course they’re under surveillance too, in this financial panopticon between Westpac and the Reserve bank (who have their own supersized security team). In the courtyard between the twin temples of plutocracy, the cops wander over every half hour or so, on the lookout for people asleep, or lying with a blanket. They are under instruction to hand a move-on order, and arrest on failure to comply. Arrest carries the risk of bail conditions that forbid being in Martin Place.
Sydney is full of people sleeping on the streets. Homeless people are asleep on stairs and in nooks all over the city. Clover Moore’s city council has decreed that the police should not move people sleeping rough along. Our legals have launched an action to stop this particular harassment on that basis. We should “play the game, just like we are”, say the cops, and until that time, no sleeping. We should play the game but we are ‘wasting our time’. They are also wasting their time then, it is suggested. But we are paid to waste our time says one, and then , thoughtfully, we’re not paid very much. They are in the jaws of the vice, like the rest of us(He goes on to say that if he won “that 30 million dollar lotto”, he’d go on working as a cop, because he just loves meeting people).
It seems there is a global policy of not allowing Occupy Wall Street protesters to form permanent camps, from the US to South Africa to Martin Place. Police tonight have swept Zuccotti Park in New York, trampling tents, and impounding gear, because “the storage of these materials at this location is not allowed”. This follows similar actions in Portland and Oakland. They can stay as long as they have no means of being warm, resting or organising. The message is you can protest provided you do no harm – ie no effect beyond theatrics. Protesters are messy and dirty, and … irrelevant
The powers that be are nevertheless rattled. The city of London and Wall Street are too busy with their attack on the Euro (in defence of their own pyramid scheme) to deign to notice. But their captives and cheerleaders in the governments have terror laws and militarised police forces at the ready, and strategies tested against the Arab Spring. We now see a concerted reaction. What they had dreamed as China’s nightmare has become their own: social network led revolution(And yet for the most part, people want to reform democracy – like ban paid lobbying, and curb the financial bubble-sphere)
We saw a glimpse of that paranoid paramilitary approach the other day in Castlereagh St. A group of Occupy protesters with a mind to direct action squatted a long-empty office building and readied themselves by painting banners and securing the entrance. As they were discovered a week later, they unfurled the banners highlighting the huge number of vacant houses in Sydney(120000 it is claimed). The response was incredible. The riot squad and the bomb squad were called in to storm the building(while Occupy Sydney Website
You can follow Occupy Sydney on twitter at @occupySYDNEY