NDA reflections and lessons

NDA reflections and lessons

Whatever else, Sydney’s 2007 National Day of Action march will be remembered as the one that took our message out to the wider Australian community.

In past years when thousands marched to mark the anniversary of the 2004 Coalition/Labor marriage ban, we did so for the most part within the boundaries of our own community to little effect.

Despite the drop in numbers this year, it can be counted as a success merely because it moved us out of our comfort zone and into the most public parts of the Sydney CBD.

Last year we simply walked down Oxford St, cheering ourselves on, and then bolted straight into Hyde Park – meaning that the protest gained little exposure with the general public.

What were we really afraid of? A few boos? We had nothing to lose but our chains.

Our stepping out of our comfort zone this year resulted in an almost uniformly positive response from the general public (from the supportive honking of horns from passing cars, to the open-topped double-decker bus full of Asian tourists who all stood up to cheer us when we marched past) and showed them that we feel a real sense of urgency about achieving our full rights as citizens of this country.

But now for some criticisms and suggestions for next time – because we all know we’ll be doing this again for at least another four years.

Taking the protest to Town Hall was an excellent idea but stopping there for over half an hour was a big mistake. Protesters fall victim to “speaker fatigue” very quickly and drift away. This was more than evident by the fact that of close to a thousand people who marched from Taylor Square, fewer than two hundred trickled into Hyde Park at the end of the day. It would be better to keep speakers on a time limit and restrict pre-march speakers to those from parties with elected MPs – with all others speaking at the end in Hyde Park prior to open mic.

Stay on message. Far too often speakers and organisers drifted onto topics which were not relevant to the issue of the day – Bush, APEC, sex workers’ rights and a whole host of other things may very well be worthy causes but they distract from the focus of the protest and dilute its message.

If you want to call yourself a “queer” by all means do, but many are still offended by the term and are reluctant to join in when the protest is headed by people shouting it into megaphones. We need everyone marching – not just the most radical amongst us. I also question its use in dealing with the media and public (which is after all the purpose of any protest). It makes the general public uncomfortable and anti-vilification laws alone mean the mainstream media will never be able to use the term to describe our community.

And finally, make sure that the Taylor Square fountain is turned off next time and that all advertising leading up to the event includes the day on which it’s going to take place – I can’t have been the only one who noticed that CAAH ads placed in the August 2 issues of both the Sydney community papers failed to mention the date of the march.

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