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(en) Australia, Sydney, An open letter from Mutiny* to people thinking about organising protests at APEC

Date Sun, 06 May 2007 20:45:29 +0300

Some people have said that they don't want APEC to be another G20. Neither do we. We don't want to see 'protest organisers' publicly denouncing other protesters. We don't want to see groups responding to a climate of police aggression by distancing themselves from those being targeted. We don't want to see groups so busy scrambling for crumbs of media 'legitimacy' that they willingly play into media hysteria about 'violence' and false and dangerous dichotomies between 'good' and 'bad' protesters. --- We believe that in this climate it would be all too easy for any of us to find ourselves classed as 'bad protesters'. --- So we're concerned to hear that the Sydney Stop Bush Coalition has decided to produce posters saying 'join the peaceful protest.'

This text itself is minor, but it suggests worrying tendencies
(which are not confined to a particular group.) To insist on
'peaceful protest' seems to be either naïve or dangerously cynical
– and it aligns with the repression of dissent.

It's naïve if anyone who was at the recent demonstrations against
Cheney didn't learn from them. No protester went there planning
'violence' – but the assembly decided to defy police and tried t
push through police lines. This choice meant that it was not a
'peaceful protest' by many definitions (and certainly not by that
of the corporate media.) Yet, the course of action taken was how
the group felt it had to be done. To try to march, people chose to
confront the police – and it was a confrontation in which many of
us suffered violence and arrest.

The next day was equally instructive: an entirely passive crowd was
terrorised by police snatch squads making utterly unfounded
arrests. If people believe that negotiating with police will ensure
a 'peaceful protest' then they don't seem to be living in the same
city as us.
Obviously it's important to encourage large-scale defiance in which
people can feel safe and brave whatever their level of involvement.
The cops are clearly trying to make anyone who might think about
protesting feel scared and we have to fight that. But insisting on
the image of 'peaceful protest' only amplifies the wedge politics
of the police and media: and it doesn't stop police violence. It
seems downright irresponsible to promise – or demand - peace.
Obedience will not make us safer.

In this context, it seems likely that, whatever the desire of the
organisers, people will choose to attend the protest prepared for
self-defence or other disobedient actions. Is the call for
'peaceful protest' an attempt by the small group producing the
poster to say that such tactics and politics are not welcome at the
protest? Of course anyone taking any action must take
responsibility for it and the effects they might have on others. However, those who call a protest are not the boss or police of everyone who attends and cannot assume to control it. Is this group a coalition through which diverse events can be organised, or is it a collective planning a single march? (We assume it's the former; if not there is clearly a need for a broader group as well.)

If any groups were planning confrontational actions it would of
course be essential that they worked with respect alongside others
so that those who did not want to be involved wouldn't be drawn in
against their will, and so that other actions were not interfered
with. While communication was imperfect, this seemed to be fairly
well done at the G20 – many people went on a march and went home,
while those who overturned barricades etc were streets away. It's
important to continue to improve communication, not shut it down.

Our fear is that an assertion made now that the protests will be
explicitly 'peaceful' will shut down the discussions that need to
be had; that people will argue only that the protests should be
'peaceful' instead of accepting that people will organise in
diverse ways; that a small group will attempt to define what is
'legitimate' for the entire protest rather than working to ensure
mutual autonomy, safety and effectiveness.

This letter was not written because we're planning so-called
'violent protest' or know of some secret plans. We have no idea.
Preparing for APEC protests has not been a priority for us as a
group. The police preparations seem to strengthen the arguments
against summit protest, especially doubts about the value of
challenging the state on their terrain and when they are most
prepared. On the other hand, they also strengthen feeligs that it
is important to defy police attempts to frighten us. This ambivalence is why we haven't been at meetings making these arguments; we hope this will as reason to dismiss our thoughts. We write in the hope that we or groups with politics similar to ours would be able to organise for APEC alongside others – in the hope that a diversity of tactics will be possible and the spaces for
discussion and action will not be shut down.

In solidarity,
The Mutiny collective
(mutineers at graffiti dot net)
* Mutiny is an anarchist collective from sydney, smeared by the corporate
media and much of the left for action at the g20 summit last november
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