Thousands took to the streets across the nation’s capital cities last Sunday to protest Abbott government policies as part of March in May.
The protest is a follow-up to March in March, a series of protests staged across the country two months ago, which formed the first major mass movement against the ideas and policy implementation of the current federal Liberal government.
Sydney organisers put forth the highest numbers of up to 20,000 people in attendance, whilst police estimates sat at a more conservative 8000.
Regardless of the exact numerical value, crowds filled the entirety of Belmore Park on Sunday afternoon for the purposes of “sending a message of no confidence and shaming Abbott and his henchmen,” as expressed by Isaac Davis, a social worker who also participated in March in March.
Mr Davis believes the federal government has “aggressively” acted against the interests of most Australians and should be “deposed”.
At the same time state and territory leaders were discussing spending cuts at an emergency meeting, protestors gathered for a rally in the inner city park to listen to speakers call for change on a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from climate change to parliamentary corruption to indigenous affairs.
The speakers were united in urgency against the cuts to healthcare, education, the arts and other public programs which were announced as the cornerstone of the federal budget earlier last week.
Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition group Ian Rintoul denounced the government’s offshore processing policy in his speech, but was quick to note that blame also lay with the previous Labor government, responsible for establishing the Manus Island detention centre.
“Any threat to Australia doesn’t come from refugees, it comes from Canberra,” Mr Rintoul told the crowd.
Another speaker, journalist Anthony Loewenstein, echoed the sentiment that March in May exemplified a need to “build back grassroots movements” in order to hold governments accountable, regardless of their political designation.
Although the protest was well-attended by members of the Greens and the ALP, organisers made the decision to turn down offers from political parties for their representatives to speak at the event.
Signs bearing “Save Medicare” and “No Education Deregulation” slogans were prominent, but many participants got creative too, with placards satirising education minister Christopher Pyne’s “grub” gaff waving in the air.
Following the rally, crowds made their way down George Street to Victoria Park for a 2km march that roused clamorous support from passing cars and pedestrians.
A group of 100 or more protestors also conducted a sit-in, blocking off the entrance of Lee Street onto George St.
USYD student Daniel Cheers, who took part in the sit-in, says that though only attended by a fraction of the total turnout for March in May, the occupation was important because actions should “escalate in response to escalating government pressure”. More than 10 people were arrested as a result of the sit-in.