Free Speech March - Sydney, 27 May 1996
The march went really well. The setup (and the cleanup afterwards) went smoothly, with everything and everyone turning up on time. The speeches were pretty effective and I think everyone had a good time. The turnout was a little disappointing. At my estimate there were about 200 people when the speeches started, rising to maybe 300 as time went on - we had hoped for more like 500. (Friends tell me I am unduly pessimistic and tht there probably were over 500 people there at peak.) The media turnout, on the other hand, was great - TV crew and reporters from all the major stations.
We listened to music while the crowd trickled in and the speeches got under way at about 12.25. As anyone who was there will have noticed, my public speaking was pretty awful, but Narelle Clark (UTS network administrator), Roseanne Bersten (editor of internet.au) and Jon Mortensen (Digital Queers Australia) did a great job. At around 1pm we set off for Parliament House, behind a big Electronic Frontiers Australia banner (carried by Pat Caldon and Michael Brader), chanting "what do we want? Free Speech. When do we want it? Now" and similar such things (with Narelle and Michael leading us). At Parliament House we tied blue ribbons all over the fence and the TV cameras went into a frenzy interviewing people (and even a convenient dog festooned with a blue ribbon :-). People hung around talking for a long time and only gradually dispersed.
Reports on the media coverage are beginning to trickle in, and it sounds like it was pretty positive. Channel 10 had a positive story and Channel 9 a more neutral one.
Pete Merel and I would like to give special thanks to everyone who helped us put this together: Narelle, Roseanne, and Jon for speaking; Mick for printing pamphlets and for providing a truck; Justine and Michael Dean for arranging the PA and the music; Jonathon and the other members of the EFA board; Matthew for advice on dealing with the media; Pat for bringing chairs and helping move stuff; lots of people who handed out pamphlets; and finally to the anonymous person who suggested the march in the first place!