Last weekend, thousands of Australians participated in March in March. Unions, asylum seekers, the environment and the ABC being just a few of the issues at hand. The protest had been in the making for many months, and was considered by most who attended, one of the most community focused rallies in recent history.
Predictably, March in March has been attacked by the conservatives. Andrew Bolt’s blog post, ‘Barbarians March in March’ highlights the crude language and generalised abuse pointed at the Abbott government.
‘The marchers claim to be “the voice of decency”, but speak like savages,’ he said.
Bolt uses the verbal aggression and vilification shown by marchers as a way to reprimand their plight. By painting them as ‘savages,’ and expressing appal at their use of language, he throws aside any need to comment on the issues that these people are fighting for.
In 2011, Tony Abbott himself took part in the Convoy of No Confidence. Addressing a disenfranchised crowd, with scores of signs labelling Julia Gillard a ‘bitch’ and a ‘witch,’ he expressed his agreement.
‘We don’t need a carbon tax, and we do need an election,’ he said, standing cheerfully by a sign emblazoned with ‘ditch the witch.’Tony Abbot at the Convoy of No Confidence
Sydney Morning Herald writer Jacqueline Maley criticized March in March as ‘unfocused,’ and ‘un-newsworthy.’
‘The protesters and speakers had a grab-bag of complaints, from asylum seeker policy to gay marriage to fair trade,’ she said.
Well, yes. And that’s exactly the point. There are so many issues causing public discomfort that a specified rally for each one could keep people on the streets for a year. March in March wasn’t intended to be focused. It was a uniting force for people from different worlds, different backgrounds and different walks of life to get together and express their unease at a handful of Liberal policies.
There is a sense of déjà vu, and hypocrisy as well. But really, how can we compare the rallies without looking at their causes?
The Convoy of No Confidence fought against, among a myriad of complaints, the carbon tax. The protesters at March in March on the other hand, expressed their disdain at the treatment of asylum seekers.
It can’t be fair that we criticize the level of language and abuse at a protest without looking at the severity of its cause. The marchers were expressing their disdain at what Amnesty International have called ‘cruel, inhumane, and a violation of prohibitions against torture.’
Rallies are the product of government policy, and the severity of the policies effects increase the severity of the march. We only need to look at the numbers: hundreds took part in the Convoy of No Confidence, and 30,000 people attended March in March in Melbourne alone.
Is a banner labelling someone a ‘dickhead’ really enough to subtract meaning from a fight against immoral treatment of people, animals and the environment?
I’m okay with the hypocrisy. I’m willing to look further than a crude sign and make my judgements based on the cause of the protesters’ actions. The amount of surface level criticism of March in March is unfortunate. Surely, the ethical issues being protested against are far more worthy of conversation than the slogans used by protestors.