Despite a ban by the Supreme Court, hundreds of people gathered at Taylor Square in Sydney, Saturday, to protest against Mark Latham’s anti-trans bill, and reject political censorship under the false guise of COVID-19 restrictions.
One Nation’s Mark Latham has introduced a bill in the New South Wales parliament that would ban all mention of trans people by teachers in public schools in New South Wales, enforced by threats of decertification. Functionally, this would force teachers to misgender their trans students, and would push trans teachers out of the profession. This bigoted bill is not only a targeted attack on trans workers, but is a step towards building support for Morrison’s government’s “religious freedom” bill. The so-called religious freedom bill, currently on hold, is a counter-attack against queer people following the success of the marrige equality campaign.
It was important to stand up against this bill before the right gained confidence to push through these attacks. New South Wales police have tried to shut down protest in order to defend those bigots in power. The excuse, that protests represent a COVID19 threat, is laughable. Demonstrators wear masks and plan for social distance; the New South Wales government allows tens of thousands of people without masks to attend sports matches, shopping malls and water parks. Not one case of COVID19 has been traced to a recent protest, many have been traced to re-opened cafes, businesses and shopping centres.
The rally heard brief speeches by April Holcombe from CARR, and Charlotte Murphy from Pride in Protest, and a trans teacher discussing the impact of the bill on public education. The protest soon after pushed onto the road and marched down Oxford Street, the site of the famous 1978 Mardis Gras, towards parliament house, being pushed and hounded by the police all the way. The protest made its way through Hyde Park, and in an attempt to outmaneuver the police, marched down Elizabeth Street. Just outside of Hyde park, the rally was cornered, and a number of comrades were picked off by the police in a wave of violent arrests, with $1000 fines and move on orders issued for 11 attendants, with two further arrested with bogus charges.
Despite the arrests and fines the protest was largely successful, rallying quickly to avoid the police breaking it up, and marching a significant distance. The success of this march reinforces that there is nothing to be won by conceding to the police’s absurd demand to have protests of under 20 people, or by trying to trick the police by claiming small protests in different locations are not for the same purpose. What matters is organisation and determination. The fines received are an annoyance, but attempts at “dodging and weaving” around the rules have not avoided fines to date. The fines demonstrators received yesterday were the same, and even less than those incurred at some less militant rallies in recent months. With successful fundraising, demonstrators and organisers will not be left unable to pay the fines that were issued.
This protest has laid the groundwork for future resistance against Latham’s bigoted law and any other the state tries to impose – as well as build the confidence of movements across NSW to defy the state’s ban on protest. By fighting back and organising with determination, we struck hard in the first round against Latham’s bigoted bill – and against the looming religious discrimination bill. When we remain organised and committed to winning in the streets, we can build the power to smash these bigoted laws and win the right to protest ourselves, rather than asking for it from above.