Having been away for the key days over the weekend, I missed a lot of Occupy Melbourne and being pretty well occupied with my environmental campaigning job I haven't spent heaps of time down there. But it sure looks like a great event from what I've seen and much kudos to those who have spent so much time there.
The talk now is of when the police are going to clear out the square. Their numbers have already increased today. Given that the Queen is going to be in Melbourne in less than 5 days, we can assume that the conservative Mayor and state government are going to want to move everyone on well before then.
It's great to see two things in particular about this protest: a whole lot of people who I can't count as the "usual suspects" that I see at left and progressive events all the time. And then all those people (plus many of the usual suspects like myself) working together to create a big public display of our dissatisfaction.
Unlike the US, Australia has not had a massive financial crisis, bailouts of huge banks, and widespread evictions of mortgage defaultees. But economic prosperity here is not shared equally. The average income may be close to $60K but the median is more like $44K (as convincingly put by Matt Cowgill).
How many young workers have never had paid annual or sick leave because they have only worked casual jobs? How many students have to work part or even full time hours on top of their course load? And how many people entering employment can seriously contemplate buying their own home with prices as high as they are? There's plenty of economic reasons for discontent.
But the occupation at City Square isn't yet the 99%, even while it has their interests at heart. The longer it remains there, the better chance it has of drawing broader support. That's important, and if the police evict the protesters, we all need to be down there the next day to protest - and hopefully reinstate the occupation.
It's like guerrilla warfare: a common saying is that a guerrilla insurgency is winning simply by holding on and being a thorn in the side of the government. As long as we remain organised (and hopefully growing) the government is not winning. They are only winning if they remove the threat completely.
The protests can continue without holding the square itself. A guerrilla army (to continue the analogy) doesn't have to seize and hold territory. It needs to be taking any actions that build support for its aims and encourage wider participation. So provided the people who have come together for this inspiring action are willing to keep going, we can keep involving more and more "ninety-nine percenters" until we win.
What steps to take as the protest moves forward? Taking the message out further is important. Demands may become important, although a simple "we've had enough!" is a great message to bring us all together in unity to get the ball rolling.
No doubt there will be many ideas for where to take the movement. Symbolic trips to the elite "Melbourne Club" and the tried-and-true "corporate scumbags tour" are good to keep things moving. The participatory General Assemblies are likewise a great idea (I hope no-one's going to try and change it to a spokescouncil!).
Today many of the Occupy Melbourne protesters rallied to the offices of BHP, the largest mining company in the world, with headquarters in downtown Melbourne. BHP is applying to build the world's biggest mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia - a uranium mine 1km deep. It was BHP-mined uranium that leaked from the reactors at Fukushima.
The mining sector isn't just an environmental disaster, from the Kimberley gas hub, to Roxby Downs, to Xstrata's proposed Wandoan mega coal mine. It's also a sector of the economy that is bloated and is crowding out everything else. There's plenty of analysis - check out what the Australia Institute has been saying here.
The mining sector is the big player in Australian politics. They tore down Kevin Rudd over the idea of a very modest tax on their superprofits and had a more compliant PM established. They are getting brazen in their arrogant domination of the politics and economy. Pride comes before the fall: I think the time is right for a movement to reassert popular sovereignty over Australia's mineral resources and land.
Sovereignty that can only come with a treaty with the indigenous people, a republic that removes the fiction of the British royal as our head of state; a system that puts resources and wealth under the control of the people, not the 1% rich and their multinational corporations.
It's too early to say how this will all turn out. But if we are going to get anywhere, we will be coming up against these issues. Here's to popular sovereignty and the occupation!