We didn’t know where we were going. When we first turned up at the spot that was yesterday’s battle ground, our numbers were so small that the lines of police, including riot and mounted, matched our number. We were jittery but we didn’t move and neither did the police, then as the time ticked by, our numbers grew but not by the numbers we were expecting, or rather hoping for.
At one point the police moved forward and we were told to prepare. But they only moved forward a short distance and then they stopped again.
An hour passed like this as the tension of yesterday returned with the same chants. But then the crowd started moving, and when it did we suddenly got to see how many of us there were. We were no longer a pocket of defiance, or as the media portrayed us a load of right wing extremists, we were a river of people whose demands were simple. We wanted choice, and no segregation. Or in old speak, freedom. And not just for ourselves, but for our country, for our kids.
At parliament the police had regrouped on the steps. Again with their horses and amour as before them a sea of high vis construction workers and other people from all walks of life started chanting again.
But before the situation could escalate, the protestors instead went for a walk down Elizabeth street. And as they walked their numbers grew, all of this was being streamed to social media not just from Rukshan’s camera, but thousands of cameras capturing the courage and spreading the hope.
And that was spreading like a virus that everyone wanted to catch.
And the hope not only came in numbers but muscle. Despite the periodic threat of violence, there was no point, for many of the men were so well built and there was, well, so many of them.
This was why the marchers walked away. They weren’t retreating out of fear, they were simply turning their back on the police and walking somewhere else, basically wherever they wanted.
After two strolls around the city they turned left.
Where are we going you heard people ask, where else, to freedom. For this is what this was, a march to freedom.
Then the word spread that it was the west gate bridge.
It was a long walk, eased by our spirits that were lifted by the gift of each other’s presence with all the truckies and cars blowing their horns in support.
I spent most of the day with Kylie who, it turned out, was the woman who several protests ago had helped me when blinded by pepper spray I had walked up Elizabeth street, my arms out like flailing inadequate eyes, and laughing because I couldn’t believe the tyranny that I’d seen was not only happening in my city but was being cheered on by a social media crowd.
It was Kylie and the others who helped me, people who I never saw, because despite the milk they were pouring over my face, I was still blind, who worked together to revitalise my soul with the kindness of what we used to call the Australia spirit. The spirt that could never have justified the falling and pepper spraying of that 70 year old woman, an act that is now seeing the Repulblican party in America demanding that the USA install sanctions against us for our government’s treatment of protestors. And if you back our government then Yes, you heard that right.
But today was different, today protected by the construction workers, we walked onto the freeway
and then right the way up the centre of the Westgate bridge below the pillars upon which the Australian flag flew in the air above another flag, their flag, the flag of the eureka stockade.
There was cheering, chanting and dancing and as we strode back to the city there was something new in the air we could smell, it was the scent of victory.
This was only day two, how could tomorrow be any smaller?
When we got off the bridge the police were back with their armour and shields and a few of the men arked up and threw things, as the majority simply crossed the road and walked around the government’s display of tyranny before yelling back at them from the other side, every day every day very day.
That done we headed back to the city knowing that if no one else turned up, then at least we would be back, and the reason, ask any one of them for our kids. For kids. Four our kids.
And what they mean by that is freedom for their children to choose in a country that isn’t segregated,
To date, I have told people we are on the right side of history but we were a long way from home, well today we see our home and its name was freedom.
Michael Gray Griffith