A Greens spokesperson in Queensland had a shoe thrown at him and a Victorian Greens speaker was boo-ed loudly at passionate protest rallies around the nation against Israel’s ongoing assault on the Palestinian residents of Gaza.
Over the weekend, protests were staged in multiple capital cities over the climbing death toll in Gaza, a war which at the time of press had claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
On the Israeli side, there have been 42 deaths, 40 of them soldiers.
Sydney staged its protest earlier today, and attracted several thousand people. But it was the protests north and south that drew the strongest reaction both at the event, and later on social media.
During the protest in Melbourne on Saturday the newly elected Greens Senator for Victoria, Janet Rice was boo-ed by the crowd and had the microphone snatched from her by a Palestinian man, angered at her call for an arms embargo on both Israel and Palestine.
By comparison, it was considerably calmer than the Brisbane rally, also on Saturday, which proved to be the most heated… and somewhat of a public relations disaster for the Greens.
Jake Schoermer, a young Green’s Candidate for the Queensland electorate of Indooroopilly in the 2015 state election, spoke at the rally.
He was not only drowned out by protestors, but had a shoe thrown at him after refusing to hand over the microphone.
Schoermer had the crowd off-side almost from the outset after noting that ‘both sides’ of the conflict should be condemned. His opening remarks drew howls of protest from the 1,000 strong crowd, and things pretty much went downhill from there.
Schoermer – who told New Matilda he’s only been on the campaign hustings for less than a year, and has never spoken at a pro-Palestinian rally – decided not to back down as the crowd grew more angry.
“I’m going to say something unpopular here,” Schoermer told the rally. And on that front, he was right.
“I’d like to note that Hamas’ actions in the recent conflict were also condemned by the UN,” Schoermer said, before being drowned out by protestors.
Undeterred, he did what some people with a microphone unfortunately do when confronted with growing dissent – he began shouting.
“But it should also be noted that I don’t believe Hamas’ actions speak for all Palestinians,” Schoermer yelled back at protestors.
It drew even louder boos from the crowd. And yet Schoermer ploughed on.
“I believe that the vast majority of every day people on both sides want peace and seek a peaceful outcome. If the Israeli government wants citizens to live in peace and security then it is in it’s own interests to seek a peaceful end to the conflict.”
As the crowd grew angrier, an organiser tried to step in and take the microphone. Witnesses report Schoermer pushed the organiser away, before giving it one last shot.
“This war has been going on since anyone can remember. The….”
That’s the point where Schoermer’s speech can no longer be heard above the crowd… followed shortly after by organisers turning off his microphone.
Schoermer told New Matilda his comments were in-line with Australian Greens policy, and while he acknowledged the passion surrounding the issue – and the perspective of protestors – he disagreed with the way the crowd reacted.
“I go to rally’s all the time but I don’t boo if something is said I don’t agree with,” Schoermer said.
“I don’t believe I was out of line. I think I’d say I was trying to have a nuanced argument and that was perhaps not the best forum or the best timing.
“But I think what I said was a fair enough statement. I am not an expert on the Israeli Palestinian conflict – it’s been going on for a hell of a lot longer than I’ve been around. But what I [said]was in-line with our parties’ policy positions.”
In fact, the Greens’ appear not to have a position on Hamas. Indeed, if you search the Australian Greens website, the word ‘Hamas’ doesn’t even appear.
But it certainly is Greens’ policy to oppose the rocket fire on Israel from Gaza, a fact re-iterated this evening – albeit far more gently – by NSW Greens’ David Shoebridge and Lee Rhiannon.
In a joint statement, they acknowledged that the issue understandably evoked strong reactions.
“For over two decades the Greens have called for a peaceful and just solution to the Israel Palestine conflict,” they said.
“No viable peace can occur until the brutal occupation and illegal blockade is ended.
“With over 1,000 Palestinian lives lost, so many of them children, there is little wonder that the passion and anger felt across the world will occasionally boil over.
“The rockets being fired at Israel must stop, but they are not a legitimate pretence for Israel’s violent invasion.
“As an oppressed people facing a military assault the Palestinians have a right to lawful resistance.”
Pro-Palestine rallies continue to be planned around the nation. The next one in Brisbane will be held on Friday at 5pm, in King George’s Square. Protestors will then march to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Charlotte Street. You can get more details by emailing rbarrigos at gmail.com
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