Oct 31, 2011

CHOGM’s in tents experience comes to an end

Perth's occupiers are no longer occupying it. They voted on the matter yesterday.

Matthew Clayfield

Journalist, critic, screenwriter and playwright

Perth’s occupiers are no longer occupying it. They voted on the matter yesterday. The model of participatory democracy they favoured held good until the bitter end, when someone put forward the motion, soon seconded, that the bitter end was what it was. By the time the garden furniture started coming down, the group was taking up an area not larger than a backyard in the suburbs and consisted of fewer than 20 people who were actually willing to camp in the city overnight. They say they will be back next weekend. If more than five of them rock up, I will, like Werner Herzog, eat my shoe.

Friday’s United March on CHOGM served as a pretty good vantage point from which to see yesterday’s final humiliation coming. For all the ostensible success of the march — the CHOGM Action Network’s Alex Bainbridge predicted a thousand people would show up and was correct — there were some telltale signs that the ensuing occupation would struggle to maintain the momentum.

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10 thoughts on “CHOGM’s in tents experience comes to an end

  1. Suzanne Blake

    “While Socialist Alliance and Community Party of Australia members accounted for a large swathe of the marchers”

    As I expected, Green Basket Weavers

  2. Phen

    Better luck next time comrades!

  3. Scott Grant

    It is a long time since I lived in Perth and I know a lot of things have changed, but the repeated use of the location “Forrest Chase” brings out the pedant in me. Surely protesters would be meeting in Forrest PLACE?

    I looked up Google maps and it still there – the open space opposite the old GPO, and next to the Perth central railway station. It was the traditional venue for open air political meetings for more than a century. Ming spoke here when I was a child, before the age of television.

    “Forrest Chase” on the other hand, appears to be a building opposite the GPO, that is now part of a shopping mall. Could someone local clear up my confusion?

  4. mattsui

    Correct SG.
    Forrest Place is the public open space
    (it’s looking quite good these days) Forrest Chase is a name given to the adjacent shopping precinct (embodied by the Myer building) in an attempt to class it up a bit.
    As for the protest, I foolishly scheduled my wedding for that weekend so I missed i. Had I been there I’d probablt left with the traditional owners.

  5. michael crook

    What an appallingly arrogant and sarcastic article. Perhaps your “correspondent” is angling for a job with Murdoch. He certainly does not appear to be at all interested in the motivations of those who did participate. I think that a bit of balance could be achieved by asking Bainbridge to write an article for Crikey.

  6. AR

    MickC – I thought that he was just cribbing mad mark steyn. Nowt original or insightful or even accurate.

  7. Ian


    A typical corporate media type commentary on Occupy Perth which failed to show any understanding of the event and to question why the gay rights, aboriginal rights and other rights groups were prominent in the occupation. These groups have no doubt had compelling personal reasons to confront the broken system that has let them down more than most of the rest of the docile and apathetic 99% of West Australian who can’t seem to see beyond their immediate relative good fortune (courtesy of China) or otherwise are not willing to get off their bums and DO something to effect change.

    The Social Alliance, Communist and Social Alternative Parties etc were there because they all at heart have deep commitments to humanitarian and sustainability principles and recognize only too well that capitalism has passed its use-by date and it is a matter of urgency to change direction.

    As for the Citizens Electoral Council, while I think there is a screw or two lose amongst that lot, it is not something the other occupiers could really do much about and still retain their goal as a movement of the other 99%, against corporate greed, inequity and co-opted governments.

    I participated in the CHOGM rally and the subsequent occupation and must admit to being disappointed but not at all surprised at the low turnout for the occupation (over 70 people did stay overnight though). I certainly didn’t welcome the Citizens Electoral Council’s presence either.

    There were many signs and chants that condemned corporate greed and the worsening inequality but some of the louder voices were indeed from the specific interest groups as the article stated. They, in this democratic movement, are entitled to their say and if the rest of the 99% are absent or silent then that’s a reflection on them and them alone.

  8. Ian

    I will also add that the special interest groups that were evident at the occupation have been organized as such for a long time while the organizers who initiated the Occupation itself are to a large extent new to the game and feeling their way – and this through a mechanism of consensus.

  9. Matthew Clayfield

    Thank you, Michael Crook, for providing such a sterling example Christopher Hitchens’ timeless dictum that “the most frequent vice of radical polemic [is] to assert, and even to believe, that once you have found the lowest motive for an antagonist, you have identified the correct one”. Not that I would call your comment a sterling example of radical polemic.

    Thank you, Ian, for your much more engaged, level-headed response. I appreciate your civility. Obviously, I take a certain objection to your characterisation of my piece as “a typical corporate media type commentary” that “failed to show any understanding of the event”. I have already discussed the motivations of the protesters in several of my other pieces on the anti-CHOGM/Occupy events, each of which expressed some degree of solidarity with those motivations. The third, in particular, made a number of the same points that you have made in your comments, such as the one about the docility and apathy of Australia’s wealthiest state. As for the Socialist Alliance, the Community Party of Australia, and their involvement in the march, I merely pointed the latter out, and even then only to demonstrate that these groups were two of many. I also understand that the Occupy group were new to the protest game and that a lot of the organisation (especially dealing with the police) was handled by the CHOGM Action Network as a result. But this merely highlights the problems I have pointed out. The atomisation of the protesters’ concerns and the dilution of their message weren’t problematic when their target was itself an atomised and diffuse structure. These things became problematic when the target, for the sake of establishing popular legitimacy if not for the sake of a complex dialectical critique of the superstructure, should have become much more singular.

    I should also point out, to ward off any further claims of inaccuracy, that my deadline came before I was able to confirm that a splinter group had remained in the city after the event’s organisers officially withdrew. Whether this constitutes an ongoing occupation is open to debate. The fact that the police tried to evict them last night suggests that it may have been. The fact that the police then left them alone again suggests that it probably isn’t anymore. The CHOGM Action Network and Occupy Perth groups are meeting again tonight to decide whether they will return on the weekend or not.

  10. Ian

    Thank you Matthew for replying to my criticism of your article. I take back the “typical mainstream media” comment which obviously doesn’t apply in this case nor to Crikey in general.

    Hopefully there will be more than 5 people returning this coming weekend to continue the occupation or to reoccupy whatever you call it. Keeping this sort of thing going is easier said than done when most people don’t see or don’t really care one way or the other. For these people the real disaster is say, if their electricity bill goes up, not whether the rest of the world could be on a slippery downward slope to an uncertain but not happy future that Australia itself will not be able to avoid.

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