In 1977, the premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, abolished the right to hold street protests. “Don’t bother applying for a march permit,” he declared. “You won’t get one. That’s government policy now.”
In response to this decision, activists swung into action, launching a massive campaign to win back the right to protest. Rally after rally was held in direct defiance of the ban, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, over 2,000 people were arrested, and the anti-protest laws were rendered impossible to enforce, and were quietly abandoned and then outright abolished.
In this episode, we chat with Judy McVey, a socialist activist who took part in organising the campaign for the right to march in Queensland. Judy talks about why the ban was put in place, how the campaign was organised and what debates took place inside it, how victory was won, and what this means today, as governments in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia move to rapidly criminalise environmental protest.
You can check out footage from one of the first right to march rallies here.