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Dissent lives in APECville: Cheeky protesters, Children, the Chaser and Osama Bin Laden

Updated: 2 additional videos from The Chaser and Bums Not Bombs – see also Green Left Weekly for a collection of videos; for less than sanguine write-ups about police powers and provocations during the protests see Adele Horin and Richard Neville. andrew-meares-howard-and-bush-behind-the-cage.jpg

Yes, APEC is in town. Sydney’s central business district has gone into full lock-down, with a surfeit of security and a 5.5-kilometre steel-and-concrete fence (pictured) inside the APEC fortress within the CBD for the week.

There is now the full contingent of 21 APEC heads of state in Sydney for the annual leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Putin’s in town — the first currently serving leader from Russia ever to visit; Bush has been here since Tuesday after his unannounced stopover in Iraq, about which he delusionally reported “We’re kicking ass“; Harper (Canada), Bachelet (Chile), Jintao (China), and Abe (Japan) are also among the 21 world leaders.

apec-membership-map.jpgA very brief backgrounder: APEC has been called ‘four adjectives in search of a noun’ — it encompasses an enormously diverse region in terms of population, wealth and culture, with APEC member countries representing half the world’s population and about half of world GDP (see APEC membership map, right). The APEC forum is obviously important for Australian commerce: 70% of Australia’s trade is with APEC member states and 8 out of 10 Australia’s top ten trading partners are APEC members.

APEC 2007 is a forum for trade, energy, security and other issues. It is neither a binding agreement such as NAFTA nor is it an international body with the right to adjudicate claims between members and impose sanctions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the neoliberal river for which APEC seems to be a tributary. So far, APEC seems to demonstrate that bilateralism is the new multilateralism, with a few key deals stitched up during the summit: Australia is to sell uranium to Russia, and Russia will sell $1.5 billion worth of submarines and arms to Indonesia.

Locally, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard hopes this forum will boost his flagging electoral chances which are at an all-time low, yet hob-nobbing with his friend Dubya isn’t doing him much good so far. Meanwhile, Australian Labor Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd is impressing China’s President Hu Jintao with his fluent Mandarin.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the protests, street theatre and satirical stunts during APEC 2007 thus far:

Bums Not Bombs: APEC’s 21 Bum Salute

As co-organiser Will Saunders told the crowd: “There’s many ways of making a point, this just happens to be the Australian way. Just because you feel strongly about an issue doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about it.” Saunders first came to public attention in March 2003 during the lead up to the Iraq war, part of a duo who painted ‘No War’ in bright red letters on the main sail of the Sydney Opera House.


Ahead of the major protest planned for Saturday where several thousand are expected to converge, a few hundred high school students — and even some of their parents — took to the streets mid-week.

High-school Student Walkout Against Bush

(round-up of news coverage 5 September)

The Chaser (CNNN) Pranks

The Chaser team are a group of satirists who have a television program, Chaser’s War on Everything, with Australia’s national public broadcaster, the ABC. They have proved to be APEC’s most effective court jesters, impersonating the Canadian delegation and employing a faux motorcade that actually breached security yesterday. The Chaser’s Chris Taylor said there was “no particular reason” they had chosen Canadian flags. “We just thought they’d be a country who the cops wouldn’t scrutinise too closely, and who feasibly would only have three cars in their motorcade – as opposed to the 20 or so gas-guzzlers that Bush has brought with him.” Another of the Chasers, Chas Licciardello, staged a stunt dressed as Osama Bin Laden:


Here’s a video clip of one of their pranks of impersonating a security officer this week, followed by one of their best known send-ups filmed in the US. Though I’ve found it funny and many friends have posted it, I’ve resisted doing so because I felt it denigrates the dignity of the ordinary person for whom I have rather more regard than those who abuse power. Nevertheless, enjoy the humour of these cherry-picked responses.

7 comments on “Dissent lives in APECville: Cheeky protesters, Children, the Chaser and Osama Bin Laden

  1. Servant
    8 September, 2007

    Which one of those bums belongs to you? :P

    I’ve worked on the staff of several of these monstrosities here and there in the U.S. So thank you for sharing the burden of hosting them. There is always a circus run by security types. I remember going to several sub-cabinet level meetings where the main topic on the agenda was whether to publish maps of government buildings, with directions to publish washrooms, where bilateral meetings were to be held. For two or three whole days we played “what if” the maps were to fall into the wrong hands and the terrorists found out where we hide the crappers.

    We pay government employees to do “something” and so that’s what they do. Something.

  2. 99
    8 September, 2007

    I’m feeling great solidarity with third bum from the left, can’t remember enjoying the word “no” quite like this…. :-P

  3. Ann El Khoury
    8 September, 2007


    I didn’t join the moon brigade on this particular occasion, but was with them in spirit.

    Yesterday Dubya thanked our ass-kissing current Prime Minister for the “OPEC” summit and for commitment to his “Austrian” troops. It takes real talent to get two major verbal gaffes in the same short address (watch here)!

    I was impressed with the high school students.

    Just noticed this URL — for all mooners at heart :)

  4. Bluebear2
    9 September, 2007

    You folks up there sure have it together – brilliant!

  5. naj
    9 September, 2007

    Bravo to students.
    Bravo to prankster too!

  6. Monte
    12 September, 2007

    Ah, there must be no place on earth like Australia. When I have traveled abroad, befriending Australians was like finding an anchor of open-ness and cheer. Giving Bush the moon seems a perfectly consistent means of protest.

  7. Ann El Khoury
    12 September, 2007

    Very kind of you to say, Monte and appreciated. I hasten to add that Australia very much has its problems, as I’m sure you’re aware, the struggle for justice in indigenous communities primary among them. Our inner city became a virtual police state during APEC and that disturbed a lot of us, seeing our city walled, water cannons on the ready to fire on protesters and police sometimes using heavy-handed tactics (not to mention the incredibly belligerent rhetoric from our Police Leaders). All this incredible disruption and segregation simply to generate PR and parade our neoliberal-neocon coopted present PM; it was overkill in a lot of ways and a far cry from the last big event we hosted, the Sydney 2000 Olympics which were open and friendly. It is nevertheless with some satisfaction that I present these light-hearted acts, in addition to the more serious protests.

    It has also been delightful to interact with dear American friends during this week of public dissent and beyond. They give me much hope and inspiration.

    Thanks also for the observation you picked up on the George Stephanopolous program, which we don’t get here.

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This entry was posted on 7 September, 2007 by in Activism, Australia, Comedy, Conferences, Dissent, Europe, Hegemon-watch, Humor, Humour, Iraq, Satire, Television, USA, Video.

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