Daily Archives: December 9, 2009

How To Make Trouble And Influence People

This was a light hearted and graphic look at the history of protest in Australia.

I showed this book to some comrades and one said that there were a lot of anarchist stories but few from the rest of the Left.

My comment is that many of the events described were not thought of as pranks at the time they took place, they had serious consequences.

I remember during the anti-uranium and street march campaign in the late 1970s, one of the contributors and I went to the interstate railway station (then at South Brisbane) in a taxi.

I was going to Sydney to hide out because the Deputy Commissioner of Police had just accused me on the evening TV news of being part of the ‘tip of terrorism’ in Queensland.

I stayed in Sydney and returned to Brisbane for a street march at Griffith Uni on 31 March 1978. Unfortunately I was arrested at that march, thrown into a paddy wagon, was verballed on a charge of ‘conspiracy to cause wilful damage in the night time‘ and thrown in jail with the bail set at about $3,000 (a lot of money then and now).

It took me nearly 12 months to defend those charges before I was finally acquitted by a jury. During that time I was arrested many times, one of the cops who arrested me resigned and had to flee to Melbourne in fear of his life.

It came out in the trial that the taxi driver who took the comrade and I to the interstate railway station had overheard our conversation and had dobbed me into the police and the cops were waiting for me when I returned to attend the street march.

There are many such stories reflected in the conversation on Workers BushTelegraph between, Ciaron O’Reilly, Barry Krosch (former Qld Special Branch), Errol O’Neill (Qld playwright and actor) and  The Qld Special Branch and other stories

In response the author had this to say:

There’s certainly an anarchist bent to the book as that’s my background (although I see myself as a Leftie without hyphens these days) and those scenes have always been particularly focused on direct action and satire, but I wouldn’t say there are only a few stories from the Left as there are loads of tales from communist, indigenous, greenie, feminist scenes, etc- even rank and file ALP folks around the Whitlam sacking.

The Tribune, Green Left Weekly and Direct Action (SWP) were probably the source of about a fifth of the material alone. In terms of the interviews it’s more slanted that way although again only 3 out of the 14 would call themselves wholly anarchist, other groups such as Graffiti Games and John Howard Ladies had a mix, the No To Pope interviewee is my sister in-law who is a dyed in the wool DSPer, Meredith Burgmann still sometimes calls herself an anarchist but is a former ALP state politician and current ALP councillor, Chaser and Safran are entertainers with a small liberal bent, etc.I agree most of the actions had serious consequences (as pranks themselves can) and were not seen as pranks, but as direct action. It’s true that the personal cost only comes out in a few of the stories such as where “Shorty” Patullo was shot during a free speech action in Melbourne. My goal, as outlined in the intro, was to mainly chronicle creative direct action that used innovation and saw activists go beyond the “acceptable” tactics of legal marches, letter writing, etc and do something that was unexpected and therefore often effective or at least attention grabbing. Hence the inclusion of convict breakouts, indigenous guerilla resistance, solidarity strikes, etc alongside stunts and hoaxes.

That’s interesting that the cop who arrested you resigned and fled. Was he also the one who broke ranks to try and save a friend who was being arrested at a demo as I read a series of articles about that in Green Left and included (I think) a date in the 3CR calendar connected to it. Will definitely read those sections on your blog. It would be good for someone to do a book or pamphlet giving a full overview of that era (unless I missed it already). Most of the info I have in the book on the Queensland actions (as well as the anti-Fraser stuff from the 70s) came from Ciaron’s pamphlet as well as the above mentioned socialist/communist papers.

Publishers Notes:

How To Make Trouble And Influence People: Pranks, hoaxes, graffiti and political mischief making from around Australia

This book reveals Australia’s radical past through over 600 tales of Indigenous resistance, convict revolts and escapes, picket line hi-jinks, student occupations, creative direct action, media pranks, urban interventions, squatting, blockades, banner drops, street theatre and billboard liberation; including stories and anecdotes, interviews with pranksters and troublemakers, and over 300 spectacular photos documenting the vital history of creative resistance in this country. Continue reading