If you’ve read the Murdoch press in Melbourne today, you’d think yesterday’s student protests outside state Parliament House were violent clashes between feral students and police. The Herald Sun advised “delinquent” students to “GET A JOB!” after a front page implying the protesters were attention-seekers with some mummy issues …
Similarly, on The Australian’s front page, David Crowe wrote that the young protesters “show the political fringe at work in an attempt to steal the limelight with a rallying cry, based on personal hatred”.
But when Crikey headed down to Melbourne’s Spring Street yesterday afternoon, the protest seemed much less dramatic than portrayed in the Murdoch press. Parliament was sea of neon green (pictured below), with police far outnumbering protesters. A line of police blocked access to the road and Parliament steps, on horseback and on foot. About 100 protesters stood in front of the lines of cops, hurling abuse about the “brutality” of the Victoria Police.
“You need to look at your own attitude guys,” one of the students yelled. But all Crikey could see in the police’s attitude was exhaustion.
A young protester, Lachlan Stirling, told us that most protesters had left after a few speeches, realising they would not be allowed on the steps of Parliament. Another protester leaving the event told Crikey it had been “a peaceful protest”. At around 4pm, at the end of the demonstration, 13 protesters were arrested for staging a sit-in on the road.
Only a very few protesters became unruly and interacted with police. Stirling said a 15-year-old-girl (now made infamous on the front page of the Hun and the Oz) who was supporting the protests had declared she would “exercise her right” to sit on the Spring Street tram tracks. About 20 people joined her, linking arms. He said the police then began to “tear people out”, and estimated that each individual was carried off the road by six or seven police.
The police repeatedly told the protesters to move off the road before taking action.
As things calmed down and the 13 “troublemakers” had been taken away, police began to leave. An announcement was made to the crowd that a few protesters were going down to Melbourne West Police Station to support those arrested.
The bulk of the protest looked to include harmless marching, speeches and chanting, with most protesters courteous and well-behaved. It wasn’t until after most of the Melbourne demonstrators had headed for their trains home that today’s headlines were created.