Democratic Rights Struggle 1977 – 1979
On 4 September 1977 Joh Bjelke Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, said the day of the political street march is over.
“The day of the political street march is over. Anybody who holds a street march, spontaneous or otherwise, will know that they are acting illegally. Don’t bother to apply for a permit you won’t get one. That’s Government policy now.” — Johannes Bjelke Petersen, premier of Qld, 4 September 1977.”
On 22 September 1977 there was a march from the University of Qld. This followed an early march on 12 September 1977 that was stopped at the gates of the University by 300 Queensland police officers.
The difference was that this second march went off campus and regathered in King George Square to attempt a march into the valley of death.
The first man arrested in Qld for demonstrating against the street march ban in 1977 was P B (a cleaner) who was arrested at 5.15pm on 22 Sept 1977 for disobeying a lawful direction. He was arrested by Constable Gary Hannigan, then from Sandgate CIB and the youngest ever detective and member of the Qld Special Branch. Hannigan’s dad was an Inspector of police.
I R (student at QUT) was arrested at 5.49pm, then L B (unemployed) at 5.55pm, L M (graduate from Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education) at 6.00pm, P A (Australian Union of Students representative at University of Queensland ) at 6.58, N N (Student at Griffith University) at 7.03pm. The last person arrested in King George Square that night was J M ( student) who was arrested at 7.07pm.
All these people except for P B had been attending meetings at the University of Queensland of the newly formed group to fight the ban. It had been named the Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Committee or ‘CLCC’. By that last arrest, 20 people had been arrested on the King George Square steps. Another 12 were arrested later at parliament house.
The women arrested were stripped searched in the watchouse that night in the presence of male police. Maris, a young student and member of the CLCC, organised a defence for all the arrested people in the courts and a few were acquitted. This was the beginning of 3000 arrests of 2000 people and court appearances which would continue unabated for 2 years – every time there was a political street march.
The democratic rights struggle is the longest single campaign of mass defiance of government in Australian history. The longest is aboriginal resistance to colonisation. From 4 September 1977 till July 1979 2,000 people arrested, there were 3,000 arrests with the largest of 418 people being arrested in a single afternoon of 22 October 1977.
Years later you can witness here some of the organisation behind those early struggles for democratic rights in Queensland.
Thanks to LeftPress Printing society super 8 footage of those days.
22 September 2010
The Struggle for Democratic Rights in Queensland
Super 8 to video running time 12.26 mins
UQ Forum 1979/
Women’s Rally 1978/
Meat workers Protest against Live Export 1978 – Channel 0 News – Howard Sacre/
West End Resource Centre/
Civil Liberties Meeting at Qld teachers Building in Spring Hill/
Guerrilla marches to the meeting/
Townsville Right to March demonstration includes unemployed workers union 1979/
Interview with Joh Bjelke Petersen at UQ/
Camera persons L H & Ian Curr
LeftPress Printing Society
PO Box 5093 West End 4101