I have been so impressed with the fact that Melbournians are prepared to take to the streets with a megaphone and a chant when they are not happy or see an injustice.
I live very close to Parliament House, and this is the gathering place for many a protest. I am alerted to this fact by the amplification of speeches on the steps of the House, and perhaps the roar of the crowd. Stepping out onto my balcony, I can see the placards, the t-shirts, the cameras and the police. If it is a large and organised protest, Spring Street will be closed off to traffic and police cars with flashing lights will block the lanes to traffic. Police wearing protective clothing and hi-viz vests will collect on the street corners and will form a human barricade part way up the steps to ensure that an unruly mob does not storm the House.
I can’t usually decipher the words of the speeches from my apartment but I can hear the crowd response.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
There were anti-Trump protests, protests on Australia Day relating to the impact of colonisation on the original inhabitants, taxi-drivers protesting against the devaluation of their taxi-licences due to the introduction of Uber and protests on International Women’s Day. These are just a few. Some protests have been union-led and others are organised by a small band of true-believers. As I made my way home past Parliament House a couple of days ago, a group of people of middle-eastern appearance was appealing for acceptance and tolerance of all people – we are all of one blood.
Sometimes, the protests are focused on a government department and then the marchers are more likely to take over the street in which I work. The music and megaphoned chants rise to my desk on the tenth floor, and the crowd decries the Centrelink debacle or perhaps decisions that doom refugees to a miserable and interminable existence.
Whatever the cause, it reassures me that people are still prepared to take to the streets and to voice their opinion on what they believe is right and to protest on what is wrong. The day the protests stop is when we all have to worry.