One word would set them off. Before it was spoken there’d been trouble when their union leader, John Setka had emerged from the union headquarters they had amassed outside of. He had told them to march to parliament house alone. But they wanted him to lead them and when he refused, they had erupted and he’d retreated inside. Since then, things that had mellowed to a simmer, as a few of them were allowed inside to discuss their issues with John. And their issue, mandated vaccinations.
Now, as the rain fell, and uber eat delivery riders walked through the crowd handing out stacks of domino pizzas, the crowd, dressed in high vis uniforms, and constructed mainly of men, introduced each other and talked. And what was so remarkable was that the conversations were all the same.
Despite almost two years of the mass media’s narrative that the community was onboard, despite too, fear being our country’s navigator and its captains telling us that repeated compliance was the only route forward, these workers discovered that despite being isolated through endless lockdowns, they had not bought any of it.
It was clear to them all that the powerful weren’t doing this out of concern for their welfare, but out of a hunger for power. And it wasn’t just their freedom under attack, it was the world’s. This was not about a controlling a virus but controlling them and their children. In their own words this was what everyone kept saying. This was war, and if we fell here, then that was it, they would be pumping stuff into our veins for years, and then our kids’ veins and the veins of their kids. Freedom would be a lie; a commodity you would have to obey to enjoy the shadow of what it used to be.
And there were no commanders here, just ears willing to listen to anyone who spoke, and raised mask-less faces as they lifted their voices to every chant that erupted.
“Fuck the Jab!”
“Fuck Dan Andrews!”
But the chant they sang the loudest, like a focused choir that the rain couldn’t mellow was . . .
“For our kids! For our kids!”
This was what they sang as Setka went live on 3AW, claiming they were protesting about on site toilets and they were nothing but a bunch of anti vaxxer extremists.
A live radio interview that was shared through the crowd, via their mobile phones with the speed and intensity of a burning fuse. A fuse lit by one word, extremists. They weren’t extremists, they were just desperate to be heard, and that word had let them know, that unless they stood up and pushed back, they never would be.
The chant was now, “Times up!” “Times up!” And it was.
The first explosion was a plastic water bottle flying through the air and bouncing off the black glass wall of the CMFEU imposing frontage. Black glass for power. More bottles followed, glass ones that cracked these black windows, and to each crack the crowd cheered. It was on.
Some sort of spray, perhaps from a fire extinguisher sprayed out of the broken windows. It was meant to disperse the crowd but instead looked as if one of these bottles had severed an artery. This was followed by the white smoke from other extinguishers which filled the air with a mist that could not hide anything. This was power, bleeding. This was truth.
Despite their demands that everyone complied in the next day or two, No Jab No job. Despite the mass media press reports where our leaders stated clearly that the past, meaning those freedoms you’d never realized you had, were now gone, this hemorrhaging building, was the possibility of another victory. One where the future would once again be free. And if a spontaneously organized crowd of construction workers could wound the country’s strongest union, their own, then the future was anything but set.
Even when the sliding doors opened and a gang of large men, reported to be bikers, surged out and started attacking the fired-up crowd, it was only a brief charge that was quickly repulsed, as these men retreated inside and started using furniture to barricade the broken sliding doors, like sailors desperately attempting to plug the hole of their sinking ship.
It was now the other army moved in. They had to.
“Get ready boys, the cops are coming.”
“Stick together! . . Stick together!”
A hand full of police had been standing off in the distance all morning. Now others were streaming in to fill their ranks. Blue gloves, blue masks and guns on their hips. Then the new riot squads joined them with their round transparent shields and body armour. Shields they banged with their batons as they began to move forward in a line.
But this was different that the other recent marches. This was not a collection of people of all ages holding up banners calling for freedom, these were mostly men who, as the testosterone surged through their veins, were communally rediscovering that not only were they still warriors but together they were strong.
Under the black banner of their union, the banner they’d just broken, a real union, organic and leaderless, had ripped off its bureaucratic chains and was now revealing to these approaching officers, and their leaders, besieged on the floors above, and to anyone else who was watching, that the fighting spirit, that through the ages had seen the working class wrench freedoms from the powerful; the freedom to own a house, to have holidays, a livable wage, the freedom to offer their children a life of freedom, of hope, had awoken.
And not only was it awake but with its back against an enclosing wall of tyranny, it had nowhere to go but forward.
In the officers came, a growing line of police, and with each step the tension grew until the two forces, as they have been doing all over the world, stood face to face.
The police with their new pellet guns and before them, a freshly formed brigade pacing back and forth as they eyed each other up.
Initially it seemed that the new union was yielding ground, but as the tension reduced to a steaming stalemate, you realized that this fresh army wasn’t retreating, but finding its limbs, which was the voices of new leaders.
Suddenly orders were being yelled out from these natural leaders picking up the baton, new Technicians. “Stay together. Go around them. Hold your ground . . . Hold your ground.”
A few more police joined their ranks, but not in the numbers they would need to defeat this mob. These were plain clothed detectives sent in to try hold the line.
As most watched, a few braver unionists walked astride their line filming the faces of the police, as those heavily armoured police with pepper spray guns ran over and raised their weapons.
More chants. “Fuck the Jab!” “Fuck Andrews!” and then an uneasy calm, broken here and there as the people cheered to passing cars blowing their horns in support.
A few days before, the police, in far greater numbers, had faced a smaller crowd. A crowd of peaceful protestors. But even that outnumbered rat tag group had not gone home. At one point, they had even managed to break their line, as they surged forward like prisoners escaping through the walls of a broken jail.
Now the government, who had once welcomed a black lives matter protest, was now reclassifying these protestors as domestic terrorists, meaning they now had the power, thanks to their new laws, to detain these Australians demanding freedom, without a trial.
No, this wasn’t a brave rat tagged group of the public standing up for freedom. This wasn’t a gentle but defiant grandmother wearing our flag like the cape of a superhero, a grandmother the officers had pushed to the ground before assaulting her face with pepper spray. These were her sons and grandsons.
It was now they chanted the chant that let the officers and anyone listening know, that the grim future of constant jabs and segregation was not a done deal. Our future instead was now here, a dropped contract waiting, unsigned in the gap between these two armies.
But who would get it? Shape it? Sign it?
The officers with their weapons, or this crowd that would not back off because it could not back off, for there was nowhere to back off to, except a country they were determined not to leave to their children? Even the youngest men were making that known. Young men preparing to fight to protect the liberty of their offspring who were still in their balls.
Then, as the standoff continued, as the day aged and the drizzle fell, the crowd began chanting the chant that by the way the Government reacted later that night it was clear that everyone in power had heard.
Would they live up to this? Would they be back tomorrow, perhaps even in greater numbers?”
Well at the time of writing this tomorrow is already today, and with a post calling for people to meet at the same place and protest, all people, being shared like a virulent virus, whose symptoms are liberty and a future, not of constant medical compliance, but of choice, well I guess today will tell.
Michael Gray Griffith