Harsha Prabhu

Pictures

Performance poet Doubting Thomas in action at Sex, Lies & Uranium – a Hiroshima Day Event, Sun 5th Aug, 2012, Byron Bay, Australia

Mary Gardner speaks of the importance of advocating truth in government

Environmental artist Benny Zable

Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham at Sex, Lies & Uranium

Aboriginal songman Lewis Walker welcomes the people

Symbolic ‘Die In’ in solidarity with Hiroshima Day

Elle Shimada & Laura Targett

Saya Minami, one of the organisers

Sun 5th Aug 2012, Byron Bay, Australia

‘I shall write peace upon your wings, and you shall fly around the world so that children will no longer have to die this way.’

Haiku attributed to Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima. Sadako is remembered through the story of a thousand origami cranes before her death, and is to this day a symbol of innocent victims of war. She died in 1955, aged 12.

Sunday 5th Aug saw a people’s action at Byron Markets in solidarity with all those fighting for free speech and those who had suffered as a consequence of the uranium industry: from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to Chernobyl, all the way to the current deadly radioactive fallout from Fukushima.

The day began with a talk by Mary Gardner on the work of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks in promoting truth in government. Mary reminded us that that phrase ‘truth in government’ came from the Quakers, from the civil disobedience generated by the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. Mary spoke of the draconian National Defense Authorization Act in the US, which will allow the govt to arrest anyone anywhere without a warrant and hold them indefinitely without charges on suspicion of “terrorism”. This could even include journalists for reporting on people on the black lists. Quoting Chris Hedges – ‘If there’s no roll-back of NDAA, we cease to be a constitutional democracy’ – Mary asked us to support those who speak up for democracy and free speech. Mary said: “Put your love into action. Be afraid and still speak the truth…that’s the message of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and whistleblowers everywhere.’

Activists from Lizards Revenge, the recently-concluded anti-uranium mine action at Olympic Dam in South Australia, spoke on their experiences of struggle. Some, like Jen Star, talked about past actions at Beverly Uranium mine in South Australia, where she, along with other protesters, was beaten, blinded by capsicum spray and placed in a sealed shipping container, serving as a holding cell, in the hot desert. Ros Elliot said there were more police at Lizards Revenge than protesters, and police tactics of constant harassment of the peaceful protests suggested that South Australia was a police state. ‘The law invoked over the road area was for terrorists – South Australia’s Protective Security Act 2007 – and gave the police increased powers of authority.’ Ros said: ‘I loved being with hundreds of like minded people, all peaceful, cooperative and many zanily artistic. Gen Y attendees made the event a real hoot.’ Ros supported Polly Higgins’ idea of making ecocide the fifth crime – alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity. She quoted Polly: ‘Ecocide is a crime against humanity, against current and future generations, and against all life on earth.’ She also mentioned Joanna Macy’s work on Nuclear Guardianship: to care for radioactive materials responsibly. Noted local filmmaker David Bradbury spoke about the lies of the uranium industry and exhorted all to stand up and fight for the environment. Ex-Green MLC Ian Cohen and Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham were also on deck, underscoring the role of the Greens in this struggle. Organisers also welcomed the birth of the Green party in Japan and saluted the people’s movement in South India against the setting up of nuclear-powered stations.

The highlight of the day was a symbolic ‘Die In’ around the installation by Nimbin environmental artist/activist Benny Zable. Benny was at Lizards Revenge and spent a night in the police cells at Port Augusta after a 270 km ride at midnight. A siren announced the ‘Die In’, followed by Lucien Boituex playing the Last Post on the trumpet, Focus on didge, Matt Connolly on the pipes and Laura Targett and Elle Shimada on violins.The ‘Die In’ was preceded by a welcome to country by Lewis Walker and Uncle Harry from Jabulam. Both Lewis and Uncle Harry reminded us that aboriginal people had always fought to protect the land and it was time for all to come together to carry this message to the people.

The people’s forum, Fukushima & Beyond, saw an eloquent plea for help for the children and mothers of Fukushima read by Saya Minami. Saya spoke about the possibility of setting up links between schoolkids from Fukushima and Byron Bay. Others ideas that came up were inviting Fukushima school kids for homestays in Byron shire; revisiting Byron Shire’s status as a Nuclear-Free zone; and petitioning world leaders, via Avaaz, to come to the aid of Japan in resolving the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima reactors.

Punters at the market were also entertained by some rabble-rousing verse by Doubting Thomas, winner of last year’s Nimbin Poetry World Cup, woven through ambient chants by Mel, Elvina and Joshua; Mauricio’s stirring anthem ‘They Shall Not Pass’; and a world music set by Carl and Parissa of The Hottentots, who also sang a poem dedicated to the Japanese beat poet Nanao Sakaki. The day ended with the mother of all drum circles where punters were invited to dance like there was no tomorrow.

And they did! And the drums carried the message from Australia’s easternmost point: Free Julian Assange! No uranium mining in Australia! Power to the People!

Organisers would like to thank all those who volunteered and participated to make the day a success, including the performers and the speakers.

This community action was facilitated by BANG (Byron Against Nuclear Group), in association with Byron Markets

The Avaaz petition to world leaders is at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Make_Fukushima_Reactor_Safe_From_Massive_Radiation_Release/?tta

Polly Higgins Eradicating Ecocide http://eradicatingecocide.com/

Joanna Macy’s Nuclear Guardianship http://www.joannamacy.net/nuclearguardianship.html

The Sadako Sasaki story is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki