Protest marches were held around Australia today against the Australian government's internet censorship plans. APC was at the Sydney march, armed with a camera.
Sydney's anti-Internet censorship rally started off rather like a rock gig: running late because the sound check hadn't been finished. With that said, there aren't many rock gigs where you repeatedly hear the phrase "open source", see T-shirts that read "I'm not slacking off, my code's compiling" or spot someone carrying Linux Journal as pre-event reading. As Dave The Happy Singer, who provided musical entertainment throughout, remarked: "I realise that some of you haven't seen daylight since 1996."
Clearly a man who knows his tech history, Dave also repeatedly referenced US Senator Ted Stevens' infamous "series of tubes" remarks, describing him as "the second most idiotic Senator to ever talk about the Internet". Our own Senator Stephen Conroy was, naturally, the implied champion.
Geek details aside, this seems largely typical of modern protests: a mix of hand-made and computer printed banners, lots of witty t-shirts, a camera in the hands of every third person, and someone opportunistically trying to sell copies of Green Left Weekly. (One note for protesters: Be considerate and leave the smokes at home next time, will ya?)
Prior to the official 11am start in Town Hall Square, a few dozen people are already milling around, although not all of them are here to fight for freedom of speech. A Japanese tourist stops and asks me to take her picture in front of Town Hall, oblivious to the issue of the day. The music selection is unusual but kind of appropriate, veering from Nirvana to Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone".
By the time the official speeches kick off around 11.40am, there's several hundred people gathered and banners and signs waving throughout the crowd. Earlier, the biggest worry had seemed to be rain, but by midday people are edging into the shade to dodge typical Sydney December heat.
After a brief introduction by Digital Liberty Coalition co-ordinator Jerry, the first speaker, Danny Yee from Electronic Frontiers Australia, takes the stage. Yee's a veteran of previous protests against NSW and Federal censorship laws, thus reminding us that a single protest isn't going to be enough to stop the Government's vaguely formulated but demonstrably stupid proposal.
"Much has changed since then, but sadly much has not," Yee noted. "The government is still treating the Internet like a broadcasting medium, and we appear to have an implementation without policy behind it."