CW: Reference to Indigenous deaths in custody and colonial violence.
Hundreds of protestors attended Fighting In Solidarity Towards Treaties’ (FISTT) ‘Abolish The Monarchy!’ rally to condemn Britain’s enduring legacy of colonial violence on Australia’s public holiday mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday.
Demonstrators gathered at Sydney Town Hall on Gadigal Land with Aboriginal flags and signs demanding “Treaties Now” to hear from an array of “Black Matriarchal Queens” on the hypocrisy of the British monarchy.
For many First Nations people, Queen Elizabeth II is not the symbol of “dedication and service” as described by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese when he announced the public holiday last week.
Instead, FISTT’s convenors described her as directly responsible for the Stolen Generations, and the annexation of sacred land around the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) during her reign. Further, she served as an emblem of the ongoing racist, sexist, and classist British colonial project throughout her seven decade reign.
The reclamation of 22 September as a Day of Mourning for First Nations communities therefore echoes the establishment of 26 January as a period of remembrance for a loss of Country, freedom, and kin to an exploitative imperialist order.
Similar demonstrations in Naarm, Turrbal, and Canberra reflected the pleas of “justice for all” by organisers from the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance.
Following a Welcome to Country, the crowd heard from Wiradjuri and Badu Island woman Lynda-June Coe, an activist and 2023 Greens candidate for the NSW Legislative Council.
Speaking to the physical and cultural genocide inflicted upon generations of First Nations people since 1788, Coe accused Albanese of “white-washing” this history since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and named her Britain’s “longest reigning thief.”
Gomeroi educator Gwenda Stanley reinforced Coe’s calls to abolish the monarchy, pointing to the exploitation of Country through coal mining and the theft of jewels to fund the Crown’s palaces and prisons. She proudly held up a new Aboriginal flag, signalling resistance to the “bastardised” and “sold-out” design currently flying at half-mast around Australia.
Kyah Patten followed with the launch of an online petition for an open investigation into her uncle Eddie Murray’s death in custody 41 years ago. David Dungay’s nephew, Paul Silva, stood in solidarity with Patten, stating: “to mourn for fifteen days for an individual is unacceptable.”
All three convenors argued against a First Nations Treaty and Indigenous Voice to Parliament structured around European understandings of land rights and sovereignty. They appealed to non-Indigenous allies in the crowd to pay close attention to what First Nations people want from a treaty.
A second round of speakers addressed global experiences of oppression and brutality endured by British colonies, and expressed solidarity with First Nations communities who never ceded sovereignty. Palestinian educator Amal Naser pointed to Queen Elizabeth II’s support of “racist and imperialist agendas” and her silence towards Prince Harry describing killing Afghans as a joy.
“Today the state has finally declared a day of mourning, only this time it is not to mourn the fact that this country was built on violence, theft, genocide and colonisation,” she said.
“But rather to mourn the queen of the Empire who subjected this violence your people.”
Red Flag speaker Vinil Kumar labelled Queen Elizabeth II’s use of taxpayer money as “emblematic of everything wrong with our society”.
The next speaker described the British Empire’s occupation of Africa as a “demonocracy”, and its creation of a “psychosis” amongst colonised societies that “teaches us to oppress ourselves, and oppress each other.”
Following the speeches, the crowd marched from Town Hall to the statue of Queen Victoria outside the Sydney Law Courts. The protesters then organised themselves with women and children standing at the front and men along the sides They chanted “Lizzie’s In A Box”, a chant adapted from an anti-monarchy protest at an Irish football match last week.
In full view of NSW’s Parliament House, Coe took the microphone to condemn the heavy police presence at the protest, raising a fist of power and asking the officers present to join “the side of humanity”.
The event’s organisers then invited all “female matriarchs” present to participate in a corroboree ritual, accompanied by the women speakers featured throughout the day. The final performance was an original song by Filipino-Aboriginal Australian musician Dobby, featuring a call-and-response music pattern involving the names of men and women who have died in police custody.
Protesers left with FISTT’s central message front of mind: “The call for the abolition of the monarchy is a call to abolish settler colonialism and white supremacy.”