Impressions of the Occupy Melbourne protest

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Occupy Melbourne
Occupy Melbourne

Today I happened to walk by the Occupy Melbourne protest and took some photos. They have set up a tent city next to Melbourne Town Hall. It was refreshing to see people with so much enthusiasm. The protestors seem peaceful and reasonably organized. Just as with Occupy Wall Street, several committees have been formed for dealing with various issues (media, parenting, food, legal, etc.). For example they have a communal kitchen which seems well run. We visited the main tent and it was interesting to watch a meeting in progress.

To me, the Occupy Melbourne group seems less `emergent’ than what the Wall Street group has been described as. Occupy Melbourne seems primarily to be an alliance of existing organizations, each with its own agenda that is already formed. These are broad in scope and they go well beyond the financial crisis to also include groups supporting indigenous rights, the Palestinian cause, the Falungong, renewable energy, and several other causes.

The result of this is that while chatting with people from several groups, it seemed they were quite keen to recruit me (and my donations) for their specific cause, rather than being truly in support of an overarching one. It felt a bit like being at a country fair with several different stalls to shop at, rather than a unified political rally. Perhaps this is also the case at the other “Occupy” events?  I wonder if these coalitions can really get together because they cover such a broad range of things, some of which are inherently quite distinct. And with so many existing groups, I wonder if new individual voices will actually be heard. Lets watch and see how things develop.

2 Responses to "Impressions of the Occupy Melbourne protest"
  1. I’ve visited the Sydney Occupy site outside the Reserve Bank in Martin Place several times over the last few days (photos here) and it seems more unified than the Melbourne one, although the group has targeted the Reserve Bank as one of the main villains.

    They don’t seem to be aware that the “we are the 99%” meme arose from Piketty & Saez’s analysis of what share the top 1% of income earners received from total national income from 1913 to 1998 (later extended to 2008). In short, the top 1%’s share rose from 7% in the 1970s to three times that in 2008 (at the expense of everyone else).

    I’ll drop by Martin Place tomorrow and leave a copy of this paper.

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