“The Day of the Political Street March is over, don’t apply for a permit you won’t get one” — Premier of Queensland, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen on 4 September 1977.
In response to the ban on political marches, I helped paint the “Ban Bjelke Banner” (shown) with another student in the forum area of the Student Union at University of Queensland on the morning of 12 September 1977.
We (and others) carried it at the front of the first street march held on that day in defiance of Bjelke-Petersen’s ban on street marches. The film of that first march of defiance was shown on TV news and current affairs for many years afterwards (see pictured). This is because over 3,000 arrests occurred as a result of defiance of the ban by workers and students in the period 1977-1979. That struggle is why political street marches are allowed today by governments in Queensland.
People should not surrender their democratic rights to any government or institution.
Soon after Bjelke-Petersen’s death in April 2005, the Beattie Labor Government granted Bjelke Petersen a state funeral.
On May Day 2005, just prior to the state funeral, I took the “Ban Bjelke” banner to the annual Labour Day march in Brisbane. I asked people who were arrested in the street marches to sign the banner. I received a lot of support from unionists and activists. Daughters and sons of street marchers proudly came up to sign the banner on behalf of their parents who had marched in defiance of the ban on street marches.
In protest of the Labor government’s granting Bjelke-Petersen a state funeral, Murri activists, SEQEB workers, and street marchers carried the banner onto Brisbane streets for the last time, almost 30 years after its first appearance in defiance of the ban on street marches (see below).
We chanted “Never Forgive, Never Forget, Never Again” all the way to parliament house.
In 2006, the Brisbane City Council’s Museum of Brisbane “Taking to the Streets” exhibition displayed the banner now displaying over 230 signatures to remember those struggles.
It should be remembered that one street marcher, the former Senator George Georges, was threatened with dis-endorsement by the Labor Party-in-opposition in 1977 if he spoke at the rally on 11 November 1977 prior to the state election on the following day.
Ian Curr, 25 March 2007