APEC: pro-Bush group granted permit
ABC Australia | September 5, 2007
MARK COLVIN: The biggest security operation in Australian history will slip into top gear tonight, when US President George W. Bush touches down in Sydney.
And when the world's most powerful man arrives at his plush Sydney hotel, he'll have a welcoming committee, a group calling itself "Aussies for ANZUS".
While that organisation has police permits to be within the APEC city precinct, close to the President's hotel, police went to court today to stop another group from marching this weekend through the declared APEC security zone.
The New South Wales Supreme Court will hear the case at seven tomorrow morning.
Sabra Lane reports.
SABRA LANE: Sydney group "The Axis of Awesome" has been so inspired by APEC it's written a ditty about it.
THE AXIS OF AWESOME (singing): You can't go to the Opera House, I'm afraid that it is shut. And Government House is a no, no, and so is the George Street Pizza Hut…
SABRA LANE: And as the lyrics suggest, a large portion of the city has been zoned a "declared" area, with some areas fenced off, and protesters barred. In particular, police have a list of 30 people who are banned from the APEC "declared" zone.
These people will be arrested and removed if they show up in any APEC security area.
Sydneysider John Ruddick isn't on the list, in fact he's organising a welcoming committee, which will display a large banner to greet the US Commander-in-Chief when he arrives at his city hotel tonight.
SABRA LANE: You've just unfurled your banner for me. How big is it? What does it say?
JOHN RUDDICK: It's about five metres by three metres, it says: "We support Bush, we love America, aussies4anzus.com".
SABRA LANE: And it's also festooned with the American flag and the Australian flag.
JOHN RUDDICK: The Australian flag's in the middle, we're proud Australians, but we're also… we think proud Australians should be proud of the American alliance.
SABRA LANE: What are you hoping to get from the President?
JOHN RUDDICK: He's a very busy man. He's got so much on his plate, and this is what I'd be happy with: if he sees our banner and it cheers him up for 15 minutes. That would make me the happiest thing, that would be the best thing we could hope for.
SABRA LANE: 36-year-old John Ruddick established the Aussies for ANZUS group last weekend, he says it already has 100 members.
(to John Ruddick) Now, you're a proud Liberal member. Here in your house, you've got a big banner on the wall.
JOHN RUDDICK: Yes, yes. The banner says, we stood out of the Kirribilli House a year ago, we said: "John Howard forever, Peter Costello never".
SABRA LANE: Where are you going to be tonight. Have you spoken to police about it?
JOHN RUDDICK: Yes, yes.
SABRA LANE: What are you going to do?
JOHN RUDDICK: There would be no need for security if there was just people supporting George Bush, protesters. But the protesters will be left-wing protesters who are violent people. And so, that's why we need the fence, to stop the left-wing protesters.
So we will be throughout this week, trying to get as close to Bush as we can - but we know that will be several blocks away - and we have to have got all the permits and everything, which we've done. And so we've got all… everything in writing, so we're allowed to be there.
SABRA LANE: So you've got a police permit allowing you to be where?
JOHN RUDDICK: Well we're near the Intercontinental, where Bush will be coming, and so it will be somewhere around Bridge Street or Macquarie Street.
SABRA LANE: So you're within that APEC zone?
JOHN RUDDICK: Correct, yes, yes. Fully abiding by the law.
SABRA LANE: Now other groups haven't been able to get that close.
JOHN RUDDICK: Oh no, we've been treated precisely the same as everybody else. There's no doubt about that.
SABRA LANE: Are you sure about that?
JOHN RUDDICK: Well, I mean, the only other alternative is that we've been given special treatment. Now, I don't think that's the case. If that were the case, that would be scandal. That's not going to happen.
SABRA LANE: But the banner Mr Ruddick hopes to hold up tonight is dependent on two long PVC pipes. Under the temporary security rules for APEC, poles longer than one metre can't be taken into declared security zones.
And I see that your poles are longer than a metre.
JOHN RUDDICK: Well it's just over a metre, but we have had it checked out with the police and they've all given it the approval.
SABRA LANE: While Mr Ruddick has police approval for his public demonstration, Alex Bainbridge hasn't.
ALEX BAINBRIDGE: We want the court to uphold the march route as we've put forward in our notification to the police.
SABRA LANE: Mr Bainbridge is part of the "Stop Bush Coalition", which had been negotiating with police about a planned protest for this weekend.
Organisers want the march to weave through the city, past the American Consulate, which is now in the APEC declared zone. It's not fenced off, but it is off-limits to protesters.
Why do you have to march through Martin Place?
ALEX BAINBRIDGE: We actually did put forward a number of alternative options to the police and they were all rejected. For that reason we, we decided there wasn't much point changing and we'd stay with our Martin Place route. We do want to pass by the US Consulate, which is symbolic of the war in Iraq.
SABRA LANE: This morning, police asked the New South Wales Supreme Court to ban the march.
Mr Bainbridge is curious that the "Aussies for ANZUS" group has approval for its show of support but he's not resentful.
ALEX BAINBRIDGE: That's interesting.
You know, obviously it does raise the question as to whether if you express views that the Government likes, you're going to receive more favourably than if you are protesting against those views that the Government holds. That's a concern.
But, I mean the fundamental thing is, there should be no restrictions on free speech, whether for us or for anyone else, inside any area open to the public.
SABRA LANE: The court will hear the case tomorrow morning at seven.
MARK COLVIN: Sabra Lane.
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