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MASK OFF: Canberra reveals its nasty side

Peaceful convoy protesters given an icy reception by local press and aggressive locals

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Over the weekend, Canberra played host to one of the largest protests in the capital’s history. On the lawns outside Parliament House, six-figure crowds raised their hands and shouted, ‘Sack them all!’

Today, protesters are being told that they have to ‘pack up and go home’ by the mainstream press. Their camp site at the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) has insisted that any protesters still on the premises after Sunday risk being classed as trespassers. The deadline was meant to be Sunday, but EPIC cancelled its events as there were too many protesters to realistically move on.

By all accounts, the protesters have been peaceful and well behaved.

The convoy started as a sympathy movement to the ongoing Canadian Freedom Convoy which has gained international attention as Prime Minister Trudeau invokes increasingly harsh orders to dislodge the world’s largest truck convoy from Ottawa – including but not limited to seizing their fuel, freezing their donations, and threatening to take away their children on ‘welfare’ grounds.

Over the course of the two weeks that the Australian protest has been in Canberra, it has evolved from a protest against vaccine mandates and into a general rejection of Covid health orders and the over-governing seen during the two years of pandemic politics.

The protester’s frustration with politicians and politics in general was clear. The people that made the trip to Canberra had suffered terribly under two years of pandemic restrictions. Whether it was the truckers losing their jobs, or ordinary people cut off from their family in other states – there was a sense of hope that maybe if enough people came to the heart of Australian politics, someone in power would help them.

No such luck. Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not address the Canberra Convoy Freedom protest, nor did the leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese.

Australia is a free country and they have a right to protest. I would ask them to do that in a peaceful and respectful way,” said Scott Morrison on Saturday – before reiterating that the Federal government only supports vaccine mandates for high risk health workers.

Despite this, National Cabinet – created by the Prime Minister – has overseen most states and territories implementing extensive vaccine mandates on the Australian workforce costing tens of thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, last week National Cabinet members were instrumental in lobbying Atagi to change the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ to include three doses of an approved vaccine, sparking fresh objections across the workforce.

We have one of the strongest economies to come through Covid that of any country in the world, particularly advanced economies, and we have one of the highest vaccination rates with 95% of our population over the age of 16 having had their vaccinations – this is what is keeping Australia safe. We now have a record that is the envy of almost any other country in the world. Now, if others want to criticise us for that, they are at liberty to do so. If others want to seek to undermine that recovery or pretend they would have done things differently or got better outcomes, well, there are plenty of armchair critics out there,” said the Prime Minister.

Coverage of the protest has been mixed, with headlines such as Thousands of demonstrators gather in Canberra to protest government restrictions and coronavirus vaccine mandates sparking hundreds of angry comments demanding clarification that protesters are anti vaccine mandate, not ‘anti-vax’ as printed across most of mainstream media.

Meanwhile, several road rage incidents in Canberra have been recorded as locals hurl profanity and hate-fuelled abuse as protesters.

“You f***king prick, piss off back to where you came from!’ yelled one elderly man.

While Chantal-Jasmine Fox, who has since been charged according to a statement released by ACT Police, refused to hand over her licence details after an accident – yelled abuse at the protester – and then drove directly into the side of the other woman’s car. Afterwards, she was seen snatching flags off the car she had run into and using them to hit another woman.

Never seen such a huge crowd of victims in my life,” wrote one of her fans in reply to a (now deleted) Facebook post bragging about ‘parking her car on an anti-vaxxer’.

Various minor party MPs and what the press call ‘rogue’ members – such as George Christensen – have been in attendance over the course of several weeks.

Mate, this is the largest demonstration that I have seen in the eleven years that I’ve been here in Canberra,” said George Christensen, speaking to Joel Jammal outside Parliament House.

People have come here because they are absolutely and utterly ticked-off with what’s happened around the nation with all the impositions on our freedom, but particularly with the vaccine mandates.

Now I hear time and time again from the people in this place [Parliament House] that there are no vaccine mandates. When they are putting a metaphoric gun to your head and saying, ‘look, you either take the jab or you lose your job – you take the jab or you can’t have a social life…’ that is a mandate. And it really has to end.

At which point the pair are rather humorously photo-bombed by a large Australian flag.

As for Labor, the traditional ‘voice of the working class people’ – when faced with a sea of blue-collar workers outside Parliament House begging for the right to return to their jobs and feed their families, the official comment from Anthony Albanese was to to ‘go home’.

It doesn’t advance any cause, it doesn’t assist any of the nonsense we’ve seen of people dressed up in military camouflage walking around Canberra. If you think that’s the way that you win support for your view in Australia, I think you’re wrong.

I think these people need to just go home and think about the fact which are out there and the facts are that you are far more likely to avoid getting Covid if you’re fully vaccinated.”

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  • By Avi Yemini

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