Today I talked to one of the coordinators of Occupy Cairns, Geoff Holland, about why he occupies, and what Occupy Cairns are achieving right now, and are planning on achieving in the future. The sound quality is poor, so a transcript has also been provided here.
PAMELA: Right, so I’m Pamela Taylor from RevolutionTruth, and I’m here in Occupy Cairns, well, in Cairns, occupying Cairns, with Geoff Holland, their main coordinator. [Turns to Geoff] Why do you occupy?
GEOFF: Because we want to be, first of all, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and in solidarity with the protests in Greece, which we sympathise with. Also in Spain, and across North Africa. We see many similarities between all of these demonstrations. Very similar issues and related issues. Issues which we have here in Cairns. So, even our local issues are tied into these global issues.
PAMELA: So what is happening here in Cairns?
GEOFF: Right, so here in Cairns we haven’t been as daring as other cities, in that we haven’t set up a tent, an encampment, but we do meet regularly in City Place. We meet every Sunday from 12pm to 3pm, and we discuss issues. Also, we have working groups, so we report back on what the working groups have done [that week]. These working groups relate to local issues and global issues. So, we have one for example on banking, which is a global issue. We have others on protecting mangrove forests that are in danger of being destroyed ever since JP Morgan Chase bank took over our airport here in Cairns, and also to save City Place itself. You know, it’s a very symbolic as well as a very tangible issue for us. As we know, about 80% or more of Occupy camps around the world take place in the City Place or City Square, and as we see it, a small group of elite people have decided to open it up to traffic, ie destroy City Place as a meeting place, as a cultural space, and as a heritage space, and as a democratic space. And this is very symbolic to us as there hasn’t been proper community engagement [in this decision]. And that elite, making decisions on behalf of the community, and giving [the opportunity for] a tokenistic community engagement is one of the big issues that faces us here in Cairns, and I’m sure faces communities all over Australia and all around the world.
PAMELA: Is there anything else that you want to add about the working groups? Is it still rolling Steven? [cameraman]
GEOFF: Ok, yeah, so some other issues are- Another initiative we have with one of the working groups is organising around setting up a marquee in City Place, potentially everyday, but it’s a question of having enough people to staff the marquee. So for the moment we’re just doing Fridays. We hope that that will grow with time. And this marquee will have all sorts of information about issues here. We find that on a whole, people in Cairns and Far North Queensland are not very well informed about global issues, and partly this could be because we have two newspapers in Cairns, and they’re both owned by News Limited. For example, the whole issue of City Place – they don’t cover it. We had a big demonstration in City Place; We had inner-city business people holding up a big banner, and one of the editors from the Cairns Post came along, but he said that he wasn’t able to do a story on it because they didn’t happen to have a cameraman that day. I mean, this is a pathetic excuse. We know that they are in favour of opening City Place up to traffic. So we can’t rely on the Cairns Post or the Cairns Sun to cover issues. They cover issues selectively, which is their right, but it’s up to us to develop other media avenues to get the word out, and the marquee is one way of getting the word out to people, of educating the community on the issues. So that’s one initiative.
We have another initiative called Movies that Matter. Every Thursday evening we screen movies that relate to social issues and environmental issues, at City Place, and it’s free. We’re currently negotiating with the City Council at the moment to use the equipment that’s already there. But in the meantime, we’ve made a wheelchair with the projector, with our own battery for the electricity that’s required, and our own inverter, and a screen so we’re completely independent. So that’s [just] some of the initiatives we’ve started with.
PAMELA: And this interview was conducted with a $99 phone.
HOPEFULLY THIS BLOG POST WILL BE CONTINUED WITH SIMILAR INTERVIEWS WITH THE CAIRNS POST AND CAIRNS CITY COUNCIL IN ORDER TO GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND TO THE CONCERNS RAISED HERE.