A Week in Rockhampton

After a bad start ( a wheel fell off our van about 1k from home), Ross, Culley and I made it to Rocky in the early hours of Sunday 3rd July to resist the US/Australian war preparations The biennial “Operation Talisman Sabre” exercises are the largest US war games in the world with 20,000 US and 7,000 Aussie troops involved. The exercises include a week of live bombing from warships anchored in the beautiful waters off the Shoalwater Bay training area. Anne and five of our children and Eli and Teresa from the NZ Catholic Worker farm arrived on Tuesday. We joined others at Franz Jagerstatter house where Bryan Law has been attempting to “wage peace” for around two months. Bryan has been speaking regularly in the mall and was arrested for doing so in a clear breach of peace powers. A magistrate berated police most strongly for trying to stop Bryan’s right to speak when they presented a request to the court, but he still has to go to court for the arrest. Bryan charged under Aviation Act. But more seriously Bryan has been charged under the Aviation Act for announcing his intention to non-violently disarm a US helicopter. The charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years jail. For more details of this and Bryan’s activities leading up to it see http://www.cairnspeacebypeace.org Open Day at Rockhampton Showgrounds On Saturday the Rockhampton community was treated to a war display including a Tank, helicopters and real assault rifles for the kids to play with. Also present was the US ambassador who had flown from Canberra for this and the Talisman Sabre ball (see later). About twelve of us headed for the Showgrounds, many prepared to do a “FlashMob” of the song “Flowers in the Guns”, where we would “spontaneously” break into song and place flowers in a gun or guns. Unfortunately police recognized most of us and would not let us in. All those refused entry gathered outside and handed out leaflets, peace balloons, sang or stood in silent tableau with names of the dead. You can see a few minutes of Andy singing with others on YouTube:

To my amazement, I was allowed to go inside unimpeded. Also allowed in were Anne and Eleni and Teresa Land and Teresa Dowling. I looked around for quite a while. It is fairly shocking to see a soldier hand an automatic rifle to preschoolers to handle, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for this. Perhaps this was an important factor in my impassioned speech a little later. “Flashmob” turned “not so flash” preaching. Eventually we did put flowers in the barrel of a tank (Anne pushed some a long way down!), and Anne started singing. I joined in briefly before Anne decided a direct speech might have to replace our failed “flashmob”. I joined rather loudly and impassionedly, berating folks for bringing their children to such an event. We managed to speak for a good few minutes before I was escorted away by police and given a direction not to go with in 50 meters of the showgrounds or I would be arrested. Anne and the others were allowed to leave without this condition and joined the others outside. Some of our “preaching” can be viewed on Youtube:

(Note how lovingly a soldiers caresses the barrel of the tank while we talk) The “Belle” of the Ball After celebrating war in the glorious sunshine, some were backing up to sing and dance about it as well. The Inaugural Talisman Sabre ball was about to take place at the Rockhampton Grammar school. Those with tickets included the Mayor , the US ambassador and, the honourables Bryan Law and Margaret Pestorius! Unfortunately the organisers reneged on Bryan and Margaret’s tickets and told them they would not be admitted to the ball after all. (Bryan and Marg lodged a complaint with the anti-discrimination commissioner, but it is yet to be heard). Meanwhile the rest of us set up lanterns and Graeme’s peace flags. I dressed in the “spectre of death” costume and others held the silent death tableau with names of the dead on their chests. Those entering would have to think more about what they were dancing about tonight. Margaret was not easily deterred from her attempt to be Belle of the ball, and waved her tickets before the police and security, pleading with them to let her in before it was over! A fairy godmother was not to be seen however, and Margaret was duly arrested for being a peace belle. And an unwanted one at that!

Margaret was charged and released alter that night. She faces court on the 27th July. Also arrested for trespass were Joseph Dowling and Eli Land who had walked around the back of the school. They were doing nothing wrong and were given no chance to leave. They are also due to appear later in the month but are attempting to get charges dropped due to the obvious unfairness of the arrests. Smoking ceremony for those thinking of entering country. On Sunday night we were graced with the amazing hospitality of traditional indigenous owners of the Darumbal Land on which the Shoalwater Bay training area resides, Amanda, Norman, and their family. Part of the hospitality included a moving smoking ceremony to help us to prevail against the negative spiritual forces against us. It was no small thing to be thus welcomed by those with a traditional relationship to the land, when those with the presumed power (government and military) are opposing our attempts at peacemaking and disarmament. I certainly left feeling more empowered with what we have to do here!

The next day, Monday was the official opening day for the War Games. The resistance continues. Jim Dowling 12th July 2011 For some photos and some info I have missed: Facebook group: Peace Convergence 2011 www.peaceconvergence.com www.cairnspeacebypeace.org

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