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Debunking: ‘Protests do nothing’

Australia Day, Invasion Day, Day of Mourning and Protest – however you label it, this long weekend should be acknowledged as one of activism. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children turned up in capital cities all around this continent now known as Australia, marching together and rallying to #changethenation with the largest rally being the 80,000 who marched together through Melbourne/Naarm.

While media coverage this year has been more balanced than perhaps any in the protest’s history, true to form, conservative media have been trying any and all means to frame the rallies and protests as nothing more than angry time wasting by left wing rent-a-crowds of people who are active just one day a year. Attempting to diminish the cause, by dismissing the activists as individuals is not a new tactic. In 2017 Invasion Day protesters were labelled ‘Fleas’ and ‘Ragtag Rabble’ by The Daily Tele, and ‘violent’ by the Telegraph. These claims are made without any data collection or investigation into the lives of the tens of thousands who turn up to hit the pavement and walk their talk, but why should facts get in the way of an agenda.

2019 has seen similar attempts to frame protesters in a poor light, but such a wild grasping of straws is a sign of their increasing loss of control over the public discourse and general narrative. Allieship, as fraught as it may be at times, is on the rise and significantly contributing to the change we are seeing. The pearl-clutching attempt by Kerri- Anne Kennerley on breakfast television yesterday, attempting to dismiss those who protested this weekend (by flexing her grossly limited knowledge of outback communities, and throwing around claims of child rape), was truly a new low. To attempt to misuse and misrepresent domestic violence and child abuse as an issue which is exclusive to Indigenous communities is negligent and ignorant at best, and violently racist at worst. This morning, rather than any acknowledgement of wrong doing by Kerri-Anne or the team at Studio 10, a choice was clearly made to capitalise and further curate their spectacle of false outrage.

Education may be a cure for many ills, but in the cases of Kerri Anne and studio 10 education is rarely the answer, because this is not about facts, it is about control. Control of the dialogue, control of the broader narrative, and ultimately attempting control of the way Indigenous people are seen and received by their audience and broader Australia. Consider those who boycotted the Formal Apology to the Stolen Generations, and who continue to argue that the child removals are for the ‘good’ of Aboriginal children. Oral history, the many personal accounts shared through sites such as the Healing Foundation, and formal enquiries and reports such as the Bringing Them Home Report, and most recently the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, are dismissed by those who still want to argue that the forcible removal of Aboriginal children by white authorities is a-okay because to them it is about white supremacy.

To claim that protesting the ideology of Australia Day, and rallying to draw attention to the systemic and structural racism which is implicit in our ongoing oppression and destruction, is to refuse to acknowledge the ways in which it is all interwoven.

This is how we end up with segments like the 2018 segment on Sunrise where Pru MacSween called for a repeat of the Stolen Generations, this is how we end up with the 2019 segment where Kerri Anne cries ‘child rape’ as a way to diminish hundreds of thousands of people protesting structural oppression and racism. Kerri-Anne has no flesh in the game, and so a spectacle like that which they sought to create this morning in the pitting of two Indigenous women against one another is the result. It matters not that Lidia Thorpe and Jacinta Price are from different Nations, and different sides of this vast continent, because to the ilk of Studio Ten any two Aborigines disagreeing is good viewing and furthers their control over what is no more than a game to them.  To understand where mainstream media stand on Aboriginal children, compare the media response to the suicide of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, to the five separate suicides of young Aboriginal girls which have already taken place this past month. All six of these children were deeply loved by their families and communities, all six of these lives matter, but you would not know that by the media response.

But these kind of low-blows by those who benefit from the very structures we are attempting to dismantle should be expected when momentum and hope for positive progress is at such a high. This month alone we have seen over $300,000 raised through the Sisters Inside GoFundMe, and thousands upon thousands hit the pavement to walk their talk. We are seeing people putting their money, and their feet to action. I was proud to not only march in a rally on Saturday, but to also attend the dawn service organised by Lidia Thorpe.

Coming together with brothers, sisters, and allies in the dark of the early hours of morning, engaging in ceremony, and watching as the sun rose over the city was a deeply moving experience on a personal level, but also a significant moment from a broader perspective. As I looked around at the crowd which was estimated to be around 1,000 people I felt many emotions, reflecting on the way we have survived through eras where our ceremony was criminalised, to now being here with brothers, sisters, and allies beginning the process of formally acknowledging the massacres of our ancestors. I left with a deep sense of hope.

We moved from the dawn service to the starting point for the rally. Marching among the crowd of 80,000 in Melbourne the energy, strength, and camaraderie while being grounded in mourning, was ultimately an experience of hope. Looking around even in a crowd of that size I saw many familiar faces, the faces of people who spend their lives contributing to the fight for justice, through education, authorship, journalism, academia, grass roots community organisations, politics, and more.

Today on Collins Street #ChangeTheNation pic.twitter.com/zUH8M7iQsM

— Marcia Langton (@marcialangton) January 26, 2019

Together we are working toward a legacy worth leaving. It is truly time for people to be asking themselves if they are on the right side of history.

The crowds were parents, carers, leaders, teachers, health workers, community members, and representative of so many walks of life. To paint January 26th rallies as a waste of time, and a collective of people worth dismissing, is to ignore the consistent growth in numbers, public discourse, and broader understanding which has been attained since the first formal day of mourning and protest in 1938. To claim that protesting the ideology of Australia Day, and rallying to draw attention to the systemic and structural racism which is implicit in our ongoing oppression and destruction, is to refuse to acknowledge the ways in which it is all interwoven. If you care about children, then care about the fact that 100% of children incarcerated in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal. If you care about our lives, about violence against Aboriginal women, then care about women like Ms Dhu and those who have had their lives taken while in custody or presence of police. Do not attempt to weaponise our pain, and the generational trauma, and ongoing systematic oppression of our people, while dismissing the many thousands who march for action, in some vain attempt to boost your own ratings and relevance.

Yes, we are angry. Yes, we are fighting for change. Yes, we disrupted the regular routine of the city for the day. But we do so every day. History is made daily, it is the small steps we are taking each and every day, the many acts, and protests, and gatherings, and moments which will be called ‘history’ by our descendants in the future, and looking around in the crowd which stretched ahead of me further than I could see I was encouraged to see how many allies marched alongside of us. Together we are working toward a legacy worth leaving. It is truly time for people to be asking themselves if they are on the right side of history.

I helped organise on Saturday and spend the other 85% of my life working to end violence against Aboriginal women but the issues aren’t binary. Aboriginal women ALSO and MORE SO experience the violence of settler colonialism and racism, and racists like KAK make it worse. https://t.co/1B7cGkKx7N

— problematic aunty (@MerikiKO) January 28, 2019

Kerri-Anne and her ilk are the very people who misappropriate quotes by Martin Luther King, while neglecting the knowledge of what his fight actually looked like. As Mignon McLaughlin said, ‘society honours its live conformists, and its dead trouble makers’ and right now, we are the trouble makers for those who benefit daily from white supremacy and the structures which have been built not only off the backs of First People, but on our dispossession, dismissal, and attempted destruction. If Australia is to be the land of the fair go, then truth telling must come first, and while we continue to be ignored by the so called leaders of the government, we will continue to take to the streets…and the classrooms, and the universities, and the hospitals, and the parliament because our activism and resistance isn’t limited to January 26th.

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