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Marching backwards

International Women’s Day held on 11 March 1978 came up with a novel tactic – marching away from a police blockade. Police Commissioner Lewis claimed that professional agitators  took over the rally. The rally, held in Roma Street Forum with 600 people in attendance, debated whether to defy the street march ban. The rally supported of a list of women’s demands. To march was contentious because some felt it may shift the issue from women’s rights to democratic rights. This was a common theme of issue based campaigns. Similar arguments were put forward by the Campaign Against Nuclear Power claiming that to march was playing into the hands of the Queensland government.

Others argued that women’s rights and democratic rights were inseparable. Marching was the only forum left for ordinary people to build their movement and make their demands a reality.

On this occasion, a vote to march was carried and 300 people marched with linked arms for several hundred metres up Roma St towards Roma Street Station. Queensland police arrested 49 people (30 of them women) when they finally caught up with the marchers.

Police were taken by surprise expecting people to march in the opposite direction (towards KGSq). The rally adopted the stance taken by the Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Committee in prior marches i.e. not to apply for a permit and to defy the ban on street marches.

Plainclothed police women were among the marchers. Special branch deployed Task Force against the demonstrators attacking the marchers violently. Some marchers made it to King George Square.

Task Force officer John Watt places strangle hold on woman at IWD 1978 in Brisbane

Ian Curr
15 Oct 2019

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