I’m deaf he said when I asked him why he was protesting. Taller than me and bone-thin, he looked like any of these police could break him and yet still he walked right up to their line, holding his homemade sign above his head that read, “Open the Churches” on one side and “Religion is Essential,” on the other.
And despite all the police, and there were so many police, and despite all the pepper spraying, (this was the day that Mary, the old lady had been pushed over and pepper-sprayed) there was something missing from this young man’s face . . . Fear.
This was Richmond.
Another woman, in her fifties, had been there that day. The police had grabbed her, but then her daughter had grabbed her mother’s arm and pulled her away. But the reason the police had grabbed her, was because she was trying to reach another, younger Mother.
I’ll always remember it, she told me. The young mother was lying on the floor next to her pram. The police had pushed her over and the woman’s toddler was not only standing next to her but holding her hand as she lay there, unconscious. It was this fallen, younger Mother that this older mother was trying to reach, but there were too many police officers and once her daughter had ripped her free, they both ran away, but no matter how far she ran, she was yet to escape the vision of that baffled toddler and her unconscious mother.
Regardless though, this older mother had participated in every protest since. God Bless, she said after kissing my cheek. Her eyes full of memories, quiet determination and fear.
Now, as we approach the 15th of December when Dan Andrews receives his despot powers, our protests are full of crucifixes. The young, especially the young men hold them up proudly or have the cross printed or drawn on their tops. Others have all manner of religious icons drawn on their signs. Signs they have drawn themselves.
But it was at the ABC, where Damien Richardson’s band of protesters were chanting, “Tell The Truth,” that I watched another young man hold up a crucifix to the police guarding the entrance from our passionate criticisms. I saw a few young police officers pull out their pepper spray, but the young man didn’t move, and neither did he pull, his only defensive weapon, Jesus on his cross, back from hazard. And this young man’s face was also missing what that other young man and many people now were missing… Fear.
Not only that, but if you looked deeper into their faces, you could see that something else was replacing it and supporting all their courage. Purpose.
Before covid, in the world where material wealth saw us want for nothing, one of our major problems it was the greatest killer of our young men, was suicide.
And despite all the mental health programs, and initiatives the exodus couldn’t be quelled. But what if instead of psychiatrists and psychologists, all they needed was an enemy? A communal one.
Victoria Police have been great since the lockdowns ended. We have faced each other, in protest after protest, and on the steps of parliament, like two armies whose leaders had temporarily left alone, as they went off somewhere and planned their next campaign.
Leaderless, neither army wanted trouble. Briefly one quiet day, they played cricket together on the steps of parliament. It was as if their larrikin, Australian spirits had momentarily escaped all this control, and together they played as though the shooting at the shrine and what might be coming hadn’t happened and would never exist.
But instead, in the air, we can all sense the truth, as if it was a promise of rain, for despite not needing one, Vic Pol owns four armoured vehicles. Our great marches have shown the city that you don’t even need one to protect us, therefore the only reason we’d own four is for subjugation.
Omicron is in the air and the fifteenth of December is almost here, and once that day passes, there will only be one man who knows what he will do with his extraordinary powers.
Leaving us to question, if our fears come true, and the worst happens, what will happen when the port police, dressed like black stormtroopers, and these fresh, religious, Australian warriors, meet.
For one side will be being paid to steal the others freedom, and the other side, all volunteers, might have reached the realization that, like their forefathers, there is a rare and noble beauty to not only fight for freedom but sacrifice everything to defend it.