Peter Hore – The Serial Pest – hadn’t been planning on disrupting the Australian leg of the Olympic torch relay. As a matter of fact, he hadn’t even known where and when it was going to be. Until I rang him. Now that Hore knew, he was definitely going to be there.

“You’ve inspired me, Cam!” he told me, before rushing off to do whatever it is that Serial Pests get up to on a balmy Wednesday afternoon in Brisbane.

My apologies to the IOC.

In terms of groups with specific Chinese bones to pick, and thus extra motivation to get organised and make their way to Canberra in numbers, the Falun Gong and Tibetan groups are definite lock-ins. According to The Epoch Times (a newspaper with strong links to the Falun Gong movement), a peaceful protest has been planned in which protesters will symbolically turn their backs on the torch.

Australian Tibet Council spokesperson Simon Bradshaw told Crikey that a number of Tibetan groups – made up of local supporters and Tibetan exiles – would be travelling to Canberra to hold a colourful, but peaceful demonstration in Reconciliation Park. A small group of hunger-striking Tibetans is also marching to the capital but, under-nourished, shouldn’t pose a threat.

While he was not concerned about individuals from the Tibetan community acting out, he was worried at reports of up to 10,000 Chinese students being bussed to Canberra by the Chinese Embassy (Crikey recently ran a translated version of the handy guide for patriotic Chinese protesters). It should also be noted that a significant number of Chinese Amway merchants are currently in the country, reportedly 9,000 of them, an especially unpredictable ingredient in a volatile political pie.

With that many Tibet supporters and detractors and Amway salespeople in the one place, there’s likely to be a bit of biff — even if Kevin says the AFP will come down on them like “a tonne of bricks” — but it’s unlikely anyone will be prepared to take it up another notch and put the thing out. While other locations on the torch route have been in big cities where progressive direct-action oriented radicals are already on the ground, by holding it in Canberra, Olympic organisers have already neutralised the vast majority of the threat to the torch.

Despite media reports suggesting busloads of leftist radicals would be making their way to the beating heart of Australian democracy to extinguish the flame of tolerance and hope, nary a revolutionary that I spoke to was planning on attending, either because it would conflict with their bail reporting (in the case of G20 arrestees), or because it was just too far and too expensive to travel there.

“Nobody wants to drive eight hours to get arrested in Canberra,” one anarchist told Crikey, “I mean… it’s Canberra. Canberra, you know? Canberra.”

On the other side of the coin, the far-Right are planning on making an appearance. The neo-Nazi “National Anarchist” group have said they’ll be there, though their concern has nothing to do with human rights. After all, them Tibetans what are getting bashed are a bunch of Chinks too, yeah? Rather, they consider the Olympics to be representative of the excesses of capitalism, and thus, representative of the excesses of the Jews who are in charge of capitalism. Not exactly great thinkers, but some members have been known to participate in acts of racial violence, so their presence will certainly make things interesting.

Don’t expect to see the torch triumphantly extinguished during its Australian leg. Do expect to see Peter Hore and myself making a crazybrave fire extinguisher run before being crash tackled by Federal Police, blood soaking into our Australia Flag capes. It’ll be heaps fun. Bring your family.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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